On creativity: a legend speaks

Twyla_Tharp-4928Famed choreographer Twyla Tharp delivered her message loud and clear March 18 in a visit to UIndy: Creativity is not a magical gift for the chosen few. It’s available to anyone, but only as a byproduct of preparation and discipline.

“Each and every one of us is a creative person,” the Hoosier-born artist told the crowd in Ruth Lilly Performance Hall of the Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center. “Accidents only happen to people who are working.”

Thus the oxymoronic concept of The Creative Habit, which was the title of Tharp’s bestselling 2003 how-to book and also that of her talk, presented by UIndy’s Sutphin Lectures in the Humanities series. Success in any creative field requires not just a bold, groundbreaking vision, she added, but also a strong knowledge and appreciation of our predecessors’ achievements.

“Rip them off. Use them. Don’t naysay the past,” said Tharp, who earlier in the day spent nearly an hour in a private discussion and Q&A session with select students. “Before you can think out of the box, you have to start with a box.”

Since graduating from Barnard College in 1963, Tharp has choreographed more than 164 works: 129 dances, 12 television specials, six Hollywood movies, four full-length ballets, four Broadway shows, and two figure skating routines. She has earned one Tony Award, two Emmy Awards, and many other honors. In 1965, Tharp founded her dance company, Twyla Tharp Dance. By combining different forms of movement—such as jazz, ballet, boxing, and inventions of her own making—Tharp’s work expands the boundaries of ballet and modern dance.