Dance's Twyla Tharp gives lessons in collaboration

Thu Dec 3, 2009 1:32am EST
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By Ellen Wulfhorst

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Collaboration is critical in the workplace, choreographer Twyla Tharp writes in a new book that contends while most workers do not team up with artistic greats as she does, the secrets to success are universal.

Tharp, who has worked with such luminaries as Mikhail Baryshnikov and Jerome Robbins, writes in "The Collaborative Habit" that her experience revolves around dance but applies to the broader world of work.

"You don't have to know anything about dance to get the point. Work is work," she writes.

Tharp won a 2003 Tony Award for Broadway's "Movin' Out," set to the music and lyrics of Billy Joel. She choreographed "Push Comes to Shove" for Baryshnikov at the American Ballet Theater and created dances for director Milos Forman's movie versions of "Hair," "Ragtime" and "Amadeus."

In her book, subtitled "Life Lessons for Working Together," Tharp tells stories about collaborating with friends and institutions, laced with tidbits of advice on such topics as communication and commitment.

"There are two things that ultimately are important. One is respect, and one is the bottom line," she said in an interview with Reuters. "Everybody needs to understand what the job is and see it the same way or it won't work."


One of her more entertaining tales involved musician Elvis Costello, with whom she collaborated on a piece entitled "Nightspot." Busy with other work and responsibilities, Costello missed deadline after deadline until she and he devised a long-distance, "virtual" way to work together, she said.   Continued...

<p>Kennedy Center Honoree country choreographer Twyla Tharp arrives at the Kennedy Center for the Gala in Washington, December 7, 2008. REUTERS/Mike Theiler</p>