Twyla Tharp (born July 1, 1941) is an American dancer and choreographer who won three Emmy Awards for her 1985 television production Baryshnikov by Tharp. After graduating in 1963 from Barnard College with a degree in Art History (after transferring from Pomona College), she joined the Paul Taylor Dance Company in 1963 and two years later formed her own company. Tharp's work encompasses classical music, jazz and contemporary pop music. Tharp has done choreography for several films including Hair, Ragtime, Amadeus, and White Nights.
Since her graduation from Barnard College in 1963, Tharp has more than one hundred twenty five dances, five Hollywood movies, directed and choreographed two Broadway shows, written two books and received one Tony Award, two Emmy Awards, seventeen honorary doctorates, the Vietnam Veterans of America President's Award, the 2004 National Medal of the Arts and numerous grants including the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and an Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
In 1965, Tharp began the dance company Twyla Tharp Dance. In 1988, Twyla Tharp Dance merged with American Ballet Theatre where Tharp created more than a dozen works. Since that time Ms. Tharp has choreographed dances for many companies including: The Paris Opera Ballet, The Royal Ballet, New York City Ballet, The Boston Ballet, The Joffrey Ballet, Hubbard Street Dance and The Martha Graham Dance Company.
In 1991, Tharp regrouped her company Twyla Tharp Dance and created a program with Mikhail Baryshnikov called "Cutting Up", which went on to become one of contemporary dance's most successful tours, appearing in twenty eight cities over a two month period. Since 1999 Twyla Tharp Dance and has been touring internationally to critical acclaim.
Tharp's work first went to Broadway in 1980 with "When We Were Very Young", followed in 1981 by her collaboration with David Byrne on "The Catherine Wheel" at the Winter Garden; and her 1985 staging of "Singin' in the Rain", which played at the Gershwin for three hundred sixty seven performances, followed by an extensive national tour. In 2002, Tharp and Billy Joel's award-winning dance musical "Movin' Out" premiered on Broadway, and a national tour opened in January, 2004. Both companies are still playing. The recipient of a 2003 Tony Award for "Movin' Out", Tharp was also honored with the 2003 Astaire Award; the Drama League Award for Sustained Achievement in Musical Theater; and both the Drama Desk Award and the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Choreography.
In film, Tharp has collaborated with directors Milos Forman on Hair (1978), Ragtime (1980) and Amadeus (1984); with Taylor Hackford on White Nights (1985) and with James Brooks on I'll Do Anything (1994).
Her television credits include choreographing "Sue's Leg" for the inaugural episode of PBS' Dance in America, co-producing and directing Making Television Dance, which won the Chicago International Film Festival Award; and directing "The Catherine Wheel" for BBC Television. Ms. Tharp co-directed the television special "Baryshnikov by Tharp", which won two Emmy Awards as well as the Director's Guild of America Award for Outstanding Director Achievement.
Tharp wrote her first book in 1992, her autobiography Push Comes to Shove. Her second book, The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life was published in October 2003.
Tharp continues to create works and lecture around the world.