Push Comes to Shove

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Bantam Books, 1992 - Performing Arts - 376 pages
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An electrifying performer and one of the greatest choreographers of her time, Twyla Tharp is also an intensely private woman whose supremely inventive dances have spoken for her, revealing a spirit full of joy and pain, contradictions and questions - and answers. Now, in her own words, Twyla Tharp offers a rare and provocative glimpse into the mind and heart behind her famously deadpan face. Much more than a dance book, Push Comes to Shove is the story of a woman coming to terms with herself as daughter, wife and lover, mother, artist. A child of Indiana Quaker country, Twyla Tharp was traumatically uprooted to California when her stage-ambitious mother built a drive-in movie theater. Soon Twyla was studying piano, violin, flamenco, drums, French, baton twirling, tap, classical ballet...But it was in adolescence - tangling with a rattlesnake in the California desert and observing overheated couples in the backs of cars - that she began to learn the powers of the body and the erotic mysteries of dance. In New York her raw talent came under the influence of such giants as Martha Graham, Paul Taylor, Merce Cunningham, and George Balanchine. But Tharp fought to find her own vision as an artist. In the process she created a new vocabulary of movement: quirky rebellious, sexy, comic - a daring and defiant marriage of Jelly Roll Morton, Bach, the modern dance, and classical ballet. Her collaborations with Mikhail Baryshnikov, Jerome Robbins, director Milos Forman, and David Byrne of Talking Heads built bridges between ballet audiences and fans of popular culture. Now with a stunning accompaniment of photographs by Richard Avedon and others, she reveals the development of the Tharp style - therendering of order out of chaos, and chaos out of conventional order - that won critical acclaim in such works as Deuce Coupe, The Fugue, Push Comes to Shove, In the Upper Room, and the movies Hair and Amadeus. But her spectacular success did not come without personal anguish. In this outspoken memoir Twyla Tharp talks openly about her love affairs and marriages, about her decision to bear a child and her ambivalence toward motherhood. She shares her continuing artistic struggle: to build and sustain a company of fiercely dedicated dancers in the precarious nonprofit world, to win respect as a woman and a performer in the male-dominated dance world. And she recalls how she found that the best way out of conflict is through movement, the joy that rebounds when the body is free to dance. Push Comes to Shove is the story of a life in motion, of a mind that moves and a body that thinks, of emotions finding form. Pausing to take stock at fifty Twyla Tharp gives us an autobiography as startling, expressive, and seductive as one of her remarkable dances.

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PUSH COMES TO SHOVE: An Autobiography

User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

As direct, quirky and complex as Tharp herself: an illuminating self-portrayal of this important choreographer- dancer's struggle for artistic and personal growth. Born in Indiana, Tharp endured a ... Read full review

Push comes to shove

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Dance aficionados have the chance to hear directly from Tharp, a dynamo of inventive pop choreography, regarding her artistic development and personal life. Chapters devoted to the creation of her ... Read full review


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About the author (1992)

Modern dancer and choreographer Twyla Tharp was born in Portland, Indiana. As a child, Tharp was an accomplished musician, dancer, and athlete. In the early 1960s, she went to New York City to study dance, and she performed with the Paul Taylor Dance Company from 1963 to 1965. Then, in 1965, she formed her own small company, focusing her efforts on choreographing severe modern-dance works. As both a dancer and a choreographer, Tharp is noted for her ability to create dance with a popular appeal without losing integrity or depth. Although her first works were rather somber and highly structured in style, her later works have often captured a more whimsical note. Eight Jelly Rolls (1971), for example, delighted audiences with its dancing set to the jazz piano music of "Jelly Roll" Morton. Other enormously popular works include Coupe (1973), a piece set to music by the Beach Boys, and Push Comes to Shove (1976), which was choreographed for the ballet star Mikhail Baryshnikov. In addition to creating works for her own company, Tharp has created commissioned pieces for a number of other dance companies, for films, and for nondancers in such other entertainment fields as ice-skating and sports. These works include Bach Partita (1984), created for American Ballet Theatre, When We Were Very Young (1980) and The Catherine Wheel (1983), created for Broadway, and dance numbers created for the films Hair (1979) and White Knights (1985).

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