April 19, 2010

Twyla Tharp

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By Sam Alcorn

LEWISBURG, Pa. — Celebrated choreographer, director and writer Twyla Tharp, whose work has been honored with Tony and Emmy awards, a National Medal of Arts and a Kennedy Center Honor, will lead off the new Bucknell Forum series with a talk at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 14, in the Weis Center for the Performing Arts at Bucknell University.

Tharp's visit will mark the start of the third Bucknell Forum national speakers series, "Creativity: Beyond the Box," which will run through fall 2011. Previous series have brought to campus leading figures in America and from around the world to discuss major issues surrounding politics and global leadership.

"Our goal as a task force in this series is to bring to campus speakers who exemplify creativity and at the same time can provide insight on the nature of creativity, including how to challenge familiar ideas," said Pete Mackey, vice president for communications and chair of the Bucknell Forum series task force. "Ms. Tharp certainly is such a person, not only as a world-renowned dancer and choreographer but also as a commentator and author, and we're looking forward to welcoming her to Bucknell."

Tharp has choreographed more than 135 dances and five Hollywood movies and directed and choreographed four Broadway shows, including the recently opened "Come Fly Away," in which she sets dance to the music of Frank Sinatra. In 2003, she wrote The Creative Habit: Learn it and Use it for Life, followed last year by The Collaborative Habit: Life Lessons for Working Together.

"Twyla Tharp is an integral piece of dance history that most only have the privilege to read about in a text or watch on the screen," said Er-Dong Hu, associate professor and director of dance at Bucknell. "Her ability to manipulate choreographic forms and the uniqueness of her style - spanning from ballet to modern to jazz, from the stage to Broadway to film - makes her a genius at her craft and leaves her at the forefront of what we call American dance. Her extraordinary contributions to the dance world earn her the title of a legend of the 20th and 21st centuries in dance."

A writer at The New York Times recently praised Tharp's "Come Fly Away" as a "dazzling new dance musical."

"A sleek, energizing mixture of Sinatra's inimitable cool and Ms. Tharp's kinetic heat, 'Come Fly Away' sweeps you up in a spell so complete that only those resistant to the seductions of dance or the swing of Sinatra will be left on the other side of the velvet rope," wrote Charles Isherwood of the Times.

Creative honors
Among other honors, Tharp has received a Tony Award, two Emmy Awards, 19 honorary doctorates, the National Medal of the Arts, the Jerome Robbins Prize, and the Kennedy Center Honor.

The National Endowment for Arts called Tharp "one of America's most important contemporary dance choreographers" when she was presented with the National Medal of the Arts by then-President George W. Bush.

Tharp graduated from Barnard College in 1963 and founded her dance company, Twyla Tharp Dance, in 1965.

Her work first appeared on Broadway in 1980 with "When We Were Very Young," followed in 1981 by her collaboration with David Byrne on "The Catherine Wheel." Her production of "Singin' in the Rain" appeared in 1985.

Tharp's award-winning dance musical, "Movin' Out," was set to the music and lyrics of Billy Joel and ran for three years. For her work on the musical, she received the 2003 Tony Award, 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 2006, Tharp worked with Bob Dylan's music and lyrics to create "The Times They Are a-Changin.'"

Dance, film, more
In addition to choreographing for her own company, she has created dances for The Joffrey Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, The Paris Opera Ballet, The Royal Ballet, New York City Ballet, The Boston Ballet, Hubbard Street Dance, The Martha Graham Dance Company, Miami City Ballet and Pacific Northwest Ballet.

In film, Tharp has collaborated with directors on "Hair," "Ragtime," "Amadeus," "White Nights" and "I'll Do Anything."

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. In addition, she 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 autobiography, Push Comes to Shove, in 1992.

Her talk at Bucknell will be free and open to the public. For more about Tharp, including commentary and interviews about her career, see the Bucknell Forum website.

The Bucknell Forum
The Bucknell Forum speakers series have featured nationally renowned leaders, scholars and commentators who have examined issues from multi-disciplinary perspectives and a diversity of viewpoints to provide a model for civil discourse. || Previous events archive

The "Creativity: Beyond the Box" series' task force is comprised of faculty members Carmen Gillespie, Beth Capaldi Evans, Paula Davis, Joe Tranquillo, Margot Vigeant and Zhiqun Zhu; students Michael Davis, Class of '13, and Lindsay Machen, Class of '11; and administrators Rob Springall, Kari Conrad and Pete Mackey, chair.

The Bucknell Forum is supported in part by a contribution from Parkhurst Dining Services.

Contact: Division of Communications