Biography of Twyla Tharp

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Twyla Tharp is an American dancer and choreographer. She is most known for developing a contemporary dance style that combines ballet and modern dance techniques.

Early Life of Twyla Tharp

Twyla Tharp was born on July 1, 1941 in Indiana. The first of four children, she had twin brothers and a sister named Twanette. When Tharp was eight years old, her family moved to California where her father built a house. Inside the house was a playroom equipped with a dance floor and ballet barres. Tharp enjoyed music and Flamenco dancing and began ballet lessons at the age of 12.

Dance Career of Twyla Tharp

Tharp moved to New York City where she sought a degree in art history. In her spare time, she studied at the American Ballet Theater school. She danced with several great masters of modern dance: Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham, Paul Taylor, and Erick Hawkins.

After completing her degree in art history in 1963, she joined the Paul Taylor Dance Company. Two years later she decided to start her own dance company, Twyla Tharp Dance. The company started out very small and struggled for the first five years. It wasn't long, however, before many of the company dancers were asked to perform with major ballet companies.

Dance Style of Twyla Tharp

Twarp's contemporary dance style was characterized by improvisation or making up dance movements on the spot. Her style included combining strict ballet technique with natural movements such as running, walking and skipping. Unlike the seriousness nature of much modern dance, Tharp's choreography had a humorous and edgy quality. She referred to her relaxed style as the "stuffing" of movement phrases, often adding squiggles, shrugged shoulders, little hops, and jumps to conventional dance steps. She often worked with classical or pop music, or simply silence.

Awards and Honors of Twyla Tharp

Twyla Tharp Dance merged with American Ballet Theatre in 1988. ABT has held world premieres of sixteen of her works and have several of her works in their repertory. Tharp has choreographed dances for several major dance companies including Paris Opera Ballet, The Royal Ballet, New York City Ballet, Boston Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Miami City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Hubbard Street Dance and Martha Graham Dance Company.

Tharp's talent has led to numerous works on Broadway, film, television, and print. Tharp is the recipient of many awards, including five honorary doctorates.