Twyla Tharp's mother first put her in dance classes when she was a child living in Southern California. "I've always been highly programmed," Twyla told me. But when she got to New York and realized her ballet skills weren't "top drawer," she decided to dig into modern dance and began studying with legendary dancers like Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham. "I said to myself, 'Well, okay, Merce does great what he does, and Martha does great what she does, but I don't want to do what they do,'" she said. "And I think ultimately that's how I became my own dancing person."
In the six decades since, she's done exactly that—and she's not done yet. Now 78, Twyla joined me from our studio in New York to talk about the start of her prolific career back in the mid-60s, the logistics of raising her son as a single parent while touring internationally, and how now, at 78, she's learning to deal with new physical limitations.
Here is an excerpt of Twyla's first work, Tank Dive (1965):
And here is a bit of The Golden Section (1983):
Looking for our Valentine's Day project? Go here!