Twyla Tharp Biography
Sun Sign: Cancer
Born in: Portland
Famous as: Dancer and Choreographer
Spouse/Ex-: Peter Young, Robert Huot
father: William Tharp
mother: Lucille Tharp
siblings: Stanley Tharp
children: Jesse Huot
U.S. State: Indiana
education: 1963 - Barnard College, Pomona College, Pacific High School
awards: Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Choreography (1985)
Tony Award (1993)
One of the most talented choreographers ever to grace modern American stage and films, Twyla Tharp is a dancer cum choreographer best known for creating newer and unique styles of dances. A graceful and curious child from the very beginning, she was exposed to music and dance from the time she was just eighteen months old. Her mother, a piano teacher, had ambitious dreams for her children and started teaching Twyla as soon as the girl was old enough to learn. Her parents operated a local drive-in movie theater and being exposed to the glitz and glamour of show business from childhood ensured that she grew up to be a confident young woman. As a young girl she not only received dance lessons, but also learned to play several musical instruments like violin, piano, and drums. Her hectic childhood schedule prepared her for the exciting career she eventually made for herself as a dancer and a choreographer. Skilled at several forms of dance-- ballet, tap, jazz, and modern—she began her career with the Paul Taylor Dance Company before establishing her own company, Twyla Tharp Dance a few years later. With her quirky sense of humor and innovative style she carved a niche for herself and went on to become one of the best known faces of choreography in America.
- She was born on July 1, 1941 as the eldest daughter of Lucille and William Tharp. She has one younger sister and two brothers.
- Her mother was a piano teacher who started teaching music to Twyla when the little girl was eighteen months old. Her mother had big dreams for her daughter and ensured that she also learnt to play violin and drums. She was also taught German and French.
- Her parents operated a drive-in theater and she worked there from the time she was eight.
- She was an eager learner and received dance lessons in different forms of the art and studied at the Vera Lynn School of Dance where she studied with the Mraz sisters. In addition to her interest in music and dance, she also loved to read books in her spare time.
- She enrolled at Pomona College in California but transferred to Barnard College in New York City at midterm of her sophomore year. She graduated with a degree in Art History in 1963.
- In New York she studied ballet with Igor Schwezoff at the American Ballet Theater, and also with Richard Thomas, Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham.
- In 1963, Tharp joined the Paul Taylor Dance Company. Married to Peter Young by that time, she made her professional debut billed as Twyla Young.
- She choreographed her first dance, ‘Tank Dive’ which was presented at Hunter College a couple of years later in 1965. Her love for dance spurred her to open her own company, Twyla Tharp Dance, in 1966.
- In 1970, she choreographed a piece called ‘The Fugue’ which displayed her creativity and innovation. She set up the floor with microphones and the four performers danced to the percussive beats of their own feet on the floor.
- She choreographed ‘Eight Jelly Rolls’ to music by Jelly Roll Morton in 1971. The same year she also choreographed ‘The Bix Pieces’ to music by Bix Beiderbecke.
- She rose to nation wide acclaim in the 1970s with her pieces like ‘Deuce Coupe’ (1973), ‘Push Comes to Shove’ (1976), and ‘Baker’s Dozen’ (1979). Her unique style of combining dance forms made her a very popular choreographer.
- During the 1970s she also ventured into television and made her first television program for the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) series, ‘Dance in America’ in 1976.
- She made several more television programs over the next decade including ‘Making Television Dance’ (1980), ‘Scrapbook Tapes’ (1982), ‘The Catherine Wheel’ (1983), and the television special ‘Baryshnikov by Tharp’ (1985).
- She disbanded her company in 1988 and joined American Ballet Theatre, where she served as artistic associate until 1990. She returned to dancing in 1991 and rejoined the American Ballet Theatre as a choreographer in 1995.
- Her soaring success revitalized the Twyla Tharp Dance Company and the group launched a global tour in 1999 which became wildly popular and extended till 2003.
- She opened a show, ‘The Times They Are a-Changin’ to the music of Bob Dylan in 2005 at The Old Globe Theatre in San Diego. The show set the records for the highest grossing show and highest ticket sales as on the date of its closing in March 2006.
- She became the proud recipient of The Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Choreography for Baryshnikov by Tharp With American Ballet Theatre in 1985.
- Twyla Tharp, along with Jennifer Tipton, was awarded The Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance for their production, ‘In the Upper Room’ in 1991.
- She was inducted into the Academy of Achievement in 1993
- She won the Tony award for Choreography for the musical ‘Movin’ Out’ in 2003.
- She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and an Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
- At Pomona College she met Peter Young who eventually became a painter. The couple got married in 1962. This marriage however did not last long and ended in a divorce.
- She later on married Bob Huot, an artist. The couple had one son, Jesse, who was born in 1971. This marriage too ended in a divorce.
- This famous choreographer was named for Twila Thornburg, the "Pig Princess" of the 89th Annual Muncie Fair in Indiana.
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