The Making of Twyla Tharp | KERA News

The Making of Twyla Tharp

Sep 15, 2015

Twyla Tharp celebrates 50 years of re-creating dance this Friday at AT&T Performing Arts Center in Dallas.

Ahead of the stop on her anniversary tour, the storied choreographer offered Think host Krys Boyd – and a live audience - a peek at her imaginative process and the childhood that produced a fierce sense of discipline. “I’ve always been interested in what’s under the hood, and I assume my audiences are too,” Tharp says.

Tharp learned to harness synesthesia – the phenomenon where one sensory input is received by another sense – at a young age. She still experiences it, but not in any consistent form.

The pairings started when Tharp's piano-teacher mom taught her music notes associated with color as a small child.

“When I hear a middle C, I see yellow, when I hear a D, it’s red, and so forth,” Tharp says. “That probably is the first cross-generic connection I made, which is color and sound. Many of those congruencies come to me from literature, painting, history, whatever.”

She started working at age 8. Tharp's parents owned and ran a drive-in movie theater on Route 66 in Rialto, Calif., and the young artist pitched in.

She learned to take detailed notes as a child, a device that was more useful for learning dance than attempting the kind of choreography that eluded vocabulary, she says. 

“In tap dancing, for example, the shuffle, the ball change … all of it was longhand.”

Listen to the full conversation with Think host Krys Boyd. 

Think airs at noon and 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday on KERA 90.1 and streams here.