Push Comes to Shove: An Autobiography

Push Comes to Shove: An Autobiography

by Twyla Tharp

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The wit and drive of Tharp's dances also feed her life story, which she tells here with a cool ebullience. Born in rural Indiana, she and her family moved to Southern California, where, still a child, she began studying dance with a visionary fanaticism that also grips her narrative. The book is sometimes very funny--George Balanchine makes an appearance as the Loch Ness monster in one of Tharp's dreams--but it is also earnest as Tharp describes her efforts to make her mark on the seminal modern dance scene of New York City in the 1960s. Tharp tells of her difficult marriage to painter Bob Huot and, elliptically, of their son; documents the life of her dance company; candidly confronts the failure of her production of Singin' in the Rain ; and considers most, though not all, of her dances. A few false notes include fulsome thanks paid to patrons and supporters and an overdetermined finale (``Finally I can feel that my attempts to discover truth through objective distance have linked up with my gut''). Photos not seen by PW. Major ad/promo. (Nov.)
Library Journal
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 stunning dances, ``Deuce Coupe'' and ``Push Comes to Shove'' are exhilarating. She depicts a life born of a fascinating mix of Quaker roots and an ambitious mother. Along with her sheer talent, Tharp's tough, gutsy determination enabled astonishing breakthroughs in dance but also masked a touchy insecurity that made her difficult to know. She relates startling anecdotes of unfair demands she made on friends and dancers, whose names read like a Who's Who of the art world. But such harsh self-disclosures make it apparent that she has learned from living. The book ends with a chronology of her work from 1965 to 1992. Essential for performing arts and dance collections.-- Sheila Riley, Smithsonian Inst. Libs., Washington, D.C.
Donna Seaman
Twyla Tharp was destined for fame by nature of her exotic name and the furious ambition of her mother. A complete workaholic by age 12, Tharp had a somewhat surreal childhood and knew early on that she was not only a dancer but a dance maker. Tharp is a frank and giving autobiographer as well as an intuitive, fluid writer, balancing the professional with the private, the emotional with the aesthetic, and sharing the painful and demanding process by which the intimate lessons of life are translated into performance. Her early works were austere and formulaic, silent and essential. Later, through grueling practice and improvisation, Tharp discovered the "juiciness" of dance and her daring style, which has maintained its stirring vitality for 30 years. As Tharp articulates the sources for her bold and exhilarating dances, including "Deuce Coupe", "Sue's Leg", "Push Comes to Shove", "The Catherine Wheel", and "Men's Piece", she explains how her all-consuming artistic devotion overshadowed marriage and motherhood, establishing a pattern of guilt about her son and restless, inconclusive affairs. Tharp propelled herself into commercial work to support her dance troupe, choreographing films such as "Hair", "Amadeus", and "White Nights". She combines telling anecdotes about her collaboration with Mikhail Baryshnikov, Milos Forman, Jerome Robbins, and David Byrne with ongoing self-portraits at each stage of her life and commentary on the logistics of staging modern dance. A perfect mate for Martha Graham's "Blood Memory" , this involving memoir pulls us into the venturesome realm of dance.
Kirkus Reviews
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 traumatic move to California at age eight: Leaving behind her beloved extended family, she was plunged into a grinding schedule of art, music, and dance lessons that her driving mother believed might give the girl a Hollywood career. The rest of her life, Tharp says, has been an interplay between her complex feelings for her mother and her art. Those interested in the way that choreographic genius develops will be enlightened here. As a teenager, Tharp ruminated endlessly about movement: "What would it feel like to twist the torso to the left and extend the leg to the right?"; "I searched physical and emotional and musical motivations—all different, all valid." Tharp's choreographic career began with her move to N.Y.C. in the 60's: Goading Paul Taylor into firing her as a dancer, she was on her own. To Tharp, choreography was a must: "I knew that until I took on the full responsibility for my art...I was only a tool, not a serious artist." Tharp imparts the full flavor of the city's 60's art scene during the time that she gradually developed a troupe of fiercely loyal performers. By 1975, she was running the only company in the country with enough work to pay its dancers 52 weeks a year. But the strain of being administrator, fund-raiser, and artist took its toll. Writing about the eventual disbanding of the company, her short-lived affiliation with ABT, work in Hollywood, and guest work with major international dance companies, Tharp pulls no punches: careerflops, therapy, affairs, abortions, troubled marriages, and turbulent motherhood are all related without excuses. Tharp is the major female choreographer in the dance world now, and her articulate, honest voice describing how she reached this status offers a lesson in how an artist grows—and a riveting read.

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.69(w) x 9.45(h) x (d)

Meet the Author

Twyla Tharp, one of America's greatest choreographers, began her career in 1965, and has created more than 130 dances for her company as well as for the Joffrey Ballet, The New York City Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet, London's Royal Ballet, and American Ballet Theatre.

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