Tharp, Twyla [key], 1941–, American dancer and choreographer, b. Portland, Ind. An eclectic, innovative choreographer and dancer, she danced (1963–65) with Paul Taylor. For more than 20 years she had her own dance companies (1967–85, 1986–88), but in 1988 she joined the American Ballet Theatre (ABT) as an artistic associate and until 1991 was one of the company's two resident choreographers. After leaving ABT she produced two pick-up troupes, including a 1992–93 tour starring herself and Mikhail Baryshnikov. She later established relationships with two regional troupes and rejoined (1995) ABT as a choreographer. In 2000 she again launched a company of her own, Twyla Tharp Dance.
Her impudent, loose-limbed, and immensely popular choreography, which combines elements from ballet and jazz and modern dance, is characterized by high energy and meticulous discipline despite its pop-culture effects. Her works include Deuce Coupe (1973), Push Comes to Shove (1975), Baker's Dozen (1979), When We Were Very Young (1980), Nine Sinatra Songs (1982), In the Upper Room (1986), The Beethoven Seventh (2000), and A Gathering of Ghosts (2019). Tharp also has choreographed for stage and film musicals, and conceived, directed, and choreographed several Broadway ballets, most notably Movin' Out (2002), set to songs by Billy Joel.
See her The Creative Habit (2003), The Collaborative Habit (2009), and Keep it Moving (2019); her autobiography, Push Comes to Shove (1992); M. B. Siegel, Howling near Heaven: Twyla Tharp and the Reinvention of Modern Dance (2006).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2023, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Dance: Biographies