Saturday, July 11, 2009

Happy birthday, Twyla Tharp



Twyla Tharp is 68 this week. The famed Annie Liebovitz took this top picture of her at 66 for Gap.

At 5.30am every morning of her life Twyla’s day begins in the gym. She was a renowned dancer, as this 1974 picture below it shows. Twyla moved on to even greater glory as the choreographer who merged modern dance with ballet. She began dancing at 4 years old and hasn’t stopped since.

Twyla created original works for the New York City Ballet, The Paris Opera Ballet and The Royal Ballet amongst many others. It is rumoured she had a famous affair with Mikhail Baryshnikov. She weaves classics, jazz and pop music into her original works.

She is an admitted obsessive, expecting an almost religious allegiance from her dancers. Her works are world renown. When she speaks on the creative process – it’s best we listen.

Her book ‘The Creative Habit – learn it and use it for life’ by Simon & Shuster ISBN 978-7432-3527-3 is a brilliant guide for all. Whether you are a dancer, painter, writer, musician, businessman or simply an individual yearning to put your creativity to use, this is the one to have to unlock your head.

Refreshingly, it isn’t about getting that lightning bolt of inspiration people call ‘talent’ that’s supposed to split the ‘great’ from the ordinary. Instead it’s about how good preparation, routine and good habits are the artistic necessities that will lead to unlocking the creative process. And they are available to everyone.

She says it’s the rituals of that preparation that matter. Creativity is the result of developing good work habits. There’s no such thing as a ‘genius.’ Hard work creates them. A kind of ‘muscle-memory’ that leads you on to be better.

She starts with a simple box. Into it she puts everything connected to the work in progress. Notebooks, news clippings, CD’s, videos, photographs, poetry, toys. It makes you feel organized. That you have your act together and you know where you’re going. Then writing the name of your project on the box states that the work has officially started in your head. You can’t walk away from it. It’s there – on the shelf - in the box.

To read this book is to be immersed in the brilliant Twyla’s thinking process. Her many secrets to the everyday problems we all face trying to create something. I guarantee that after reading it you will come away with some solutions.

Here’s to many more birthdays, Twyla!

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