“God gives you one gift: You get to be born,” the choreographer Twyla Tharp said. “Thereafter, you’ve got to take care of it yourself.”
Her new book, “Keep It Moving: Lessons for the Rest of Your Life,” doesn’t have anything to do with chasing youth. No, no, no — to Ms. Tharp, 78, that is a losing proposition. But it’s not over until it’s over. “The figures are still shocking in terms of people who don’t exercise or who are not aware of the reality that diet is actually extremely important,” she said. “If you want to have a future, you’ve got to provide for that now.”
And Ms. Tharp, a dance pioneer and Tony-Award-winning choreographer, is ready to assist. She has already written two books about how to better yourself using the tools of an artist: “The Creative Habit” (2003), a best seller, and “The Collaborative Habit” (2009). “Keep It Moving,” a follow-up, applies those tools to finding purpose and growth as you age, no matter what age you are.
started formal dance training at 14 years of age at The Inner City Ensemble
Theatre and Dance Company in Paterson NJ. ICE was known for providing
opportunities for teenagers in the neighborhood an outlet for expression
instead of the alternative which was a life in the streets. I knew about the
company because I would attend some of their public performances and was in awe
of the dancing – I used to go home after watching a performance and try to
recreate some of the choreography.
12 years of age I auditioned for ICE but was not chosen however, my sister was
and whenever she would go to rehearsals I would tag along. Eventually, one of
the choreographers found out that I could dance and asked me to become a member
of the 1st company – the performing company.
didn’t last long. I was too young and after my sister decided to drop out, I
wasn’t going to go without her. So, I dropped out as well.
years later, ICE was having auditions and at that time I was a freshman
attending Eastside High School in Paterson. I was also heavy into soccer and
wanted to play for Eastside’s soccer team. When I went to the coach and asked
if I could try out he said that he
already had his team assembled. The next day, posted on a door at school, there
was a notice about auditions for ICE – I went and this time I was accepted.
ICE, they provided several forms of dance – Ballet, Jazz and Modern. Each class
requiring a different set of dress requirements that I did not have – for my
audition/Ballet class I wore a Karate uniform (so embarrassing).
taking a formal dance class, there were a few things that I needed to learn,
mainly learning what and how to dress for the various classes that I was
required to take. For Ballet class, white leotard, black tights, ballet shoes
and the dreaded dance belt – Jazz, black leotard, black Jazz pants and Jazz
shoes, Modern, black leotard, Jazz pants/sweatpants and bare feet.
belts are torturous! I have never worn a dance belt that I could say was
comfortable and even after purchasing all forms of dance belts later in my
career, never have I worn one that I could say, “hmm…this actually feels
ok.” On the other hand, any guy
starting out, you have to wear it – it’s better to be safe than sorry even
though there will be times when you are going to feel sorry for being safe.
were a problem for me as well. I didn’t have much money at first, so I
basically purchased a pair of ballet shoes on sale from Capezio. They were
black and made of leather. The sole of the shoe was not very supple so my feet
looked terrible when I pointed and I didn’t have a good point to begin with so
imagine a pair of golf clubs that were slightly bent more than usual at the
bottom and you have my feet.
of thumb when taking your first dance classes…focus 110% on your teachers. They
are providing you with the information you need to progress, not your friends.
If you have a question, always ask your teacher. There are going to be other
dancers in the class that think they may know better and are going to tell you
what to do because they have a false sense that they are the best in the class.
As a result, they are going to find opportunities to tell you what to do –
don’t let them, trust your teacher. Many times, these students that are endowed
with this false sense of themselves decide to strike out into the world when
they are older only to discover that compared to the rest of the real dance
world, they are a very tiny plankton in the great sea of dance. If you continue
to listen to your teachers, your will eventually begin to work with
choreographers and if you did your job well with teachers, choreographers will
the other hand, you may encounter teachers
the other hand, not all dance teachers are great. At ICE, I was fortunate to
have been taught by teachers that have either taught at Juilliard or have
danced with professional dance companies. They weren’t high school students
that have gone through the studios that they were or continue to take class
from. To put it more bluntly, children cannot teach children to dance in
order to get to the next level of a career in dance. A dance teacher needs to
have experience in years as well as a career in the profession of dance.
hate to also say this but, you have to love taking class. If you don’t, then
going to the next level most likely is not an option. Dance class has to be
more than just moving around to waste time, show offing, doing it because your
parents are forcing you, hanging with friends, increase your chances of getting
a part in the Nutcracker, or anything else other than you can’t go a day
without it – you take dance class
because you want to dance…period. This means that there is no difference
between taking class and performing at the Met – it’s all dance and you just
can’t live without it. My audition for ICE was a ballet class. I never took
ballet before, but I knew that I was hooked after the second class. The reason
was that there was a methodology to ballet that I found made sense to me. Also,
in a chaotic world, ballet class was the only place where I knew what was going
to happen from plie to gran allegro…it was my rock in a raging river.
I want to be a ballet dancer…HELL NO! For me, dance is language and how can you
relate or communicate with others if you only know one language. Ballet was my
foundation. If a dancer has been studying with a ballet master that understands
how to teach ballet, that dancer can go on to learn and master other forms of
this mean that Ballet dancers can dance any form of dance…emphatically NO. If
you rely on one form, you will look like a dancer that is trying to dance
another form, badly. If you get a chance, watch Baryshnikov on Broadway. Really look at the
difference between the way Liza and Misha are moving. I could go on forever
with the differences, but I am only going to talk about one – the back. Liza
moves through her back – she allows it to twist and bend naturally in response
to her movement. Misha’s back is straight and high – this is the trait of a
dancer that has been doing ballet his/her entire life and only exposed to other
forms many years later. Reason is, if you are going to be able to perform 11 rubles (pirouettes…see White Nights clip), you need to
call upon your center at a moment’s notice – center becomes and unconscious
in all, as a beginning dancer, don’t get discouraged. If you are doing it
because you want to do it, there is no right or wrong – a teacher that tells
you that you are doing something wrong does not mean that you are
every correction as an opportunity for you to be a better dancer – I’m pretty
sure that when one is learning a new language, they are going to make a few
if you don’t feel a desire to dance – if it doesn’t feel like food, a source of
life, don’t think that you are not worthy of dance. People dance for many reasons
and if you just find dance fun, then by all means, keep dancing!
Ken Ryan, master of properties at SF Ballet, explains that for an art form without spoken word, like ballet, props are not just window dressing, but instead vital to the storytelling. We asked him about the many props in Tomasson’s Nutcracker.What constitutes a prop here at SF Ballet?Ken Ryan: At SF Ballet, a prop is anything a…
— Read on sfballet.blog/2019/talking-props-with-the-prop-master/
Ironically last week in my Contemporary class, our discovery question was: “What is my relationship to space?” Many students defined their understanding of “taking up space” as a conversation with those around them or defined the space as a container that they create pathways within. Using these questions and our Spatial Intent discussion, I have come to realize that I am very attuned to space. In movement, my body designs itself in relation to space. By utilizing the angles of the room, the texture of the space, or understanding how momentum redirects my movements are supported by the space or space. I have come to question if spatial intent is only alive when muscularity is involved or if it is simply understanding the thoroughness of the body’s alignment and potentiality or trajectory through space? For example, within the body-half, incorporating the concepts of radical center, breath support, and weight shift…