Arts Ornery and Brilliant
posted by September 25 at 11:57 AMon
Twyla Tharp is the world’s most famous living choreographer. She is also famously cranky. In person, she is almost the caricature of prickly genius.
She likes talking about her self-help book, but dislikes talking about her autobiography. She parries any question about her most recent Broadway production—a critically lambasted evening of dance set to Bob Dylan songs—with flat refusal: “This is not a subject for this conversation.”
She is curt and evasive when talking about any dance other than her own, but witheringly loquacious about why it’s a good thing that theater and dance critics are being fired wholesale from American newspapers:
“Very few journalists, critics, or writers in any arena of the arts have the depth of information to give any fodder for thought.”
For any thought?
“For healthy thought.”
Listen to the rest of the tense interview—her being sharp and ornery, me being occasionally flustered—here:
(Highlights: Minute 2:10, Tharp cracks wise. Minute 7:40, Tharp politely explains that young dancers ain’t what they used to be. Minute 15:14, we discuss the reemergence of burlesque. Minute 21:56, we argue about criticism and philosophy—and she gives her thumbs-up to the death of my profession.)
But the 67-year-old dancer and choreographer, who has come to Seattle this month to make two world-premiere ballets for PNB, has earned the right to be ornery. She is not only the most famous living choreographer—she may be the most influential.
Tharp structurally rearranged the dance world in the early 1970s with her ménage à trois of classicism (ballet), avant-garde (minimalism), and pop (rock ‘n’ roll and jazz).
Read more about her in this week’s theater section.