Twyla Tharp Biography

Twyla Tharp, one of the most talented choreographers in modern American stage and films, is renowned for her unique and innovative styles of dance. From a young age, she was exposed to music and dance, thanks to her mother’s ambition and her parents’ involvement in show business. With a diverse background in dance and music, Twyla’s childhood prepared her for a successful career as a dancer and choreographer. She began her journey with the Paul Taylor Dance Company before establishing her own company, Twyla Tharp Dance. With her quirky humor and innovative style, she has become a prominent figure in the world of choreography in America.

Quick Facts

  • Age: 82 Years, 82 Year Old Females
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: Peter Young, Robert Huot
    • Father: William Tharp
    • Mother: Lucille Tharp
    • Siblings: Stanley Tharp
    • Children: Jesse Huot
  • Occupation: Ballet Dancers, Choreographers
  • U.S. State: Indiana
  • Education:
    • 1963 – Barnard College
    • Pomona College
    • Pacific High School
  • Awards:
    • Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Choreography (1985)
    • Tony Award (1993)

Childhood & Early Life

Twyla Tharp was born on July 1, 1941, as the eldest daughter of Lucille and William Tharp. She has one younger sister and two brothers. Her mother, a piano teacher, started teaching music to Twyla when she was just eighteen months old. In addition to piano, her mother also taught her to play the violin and drums, as well as German and French. Twyla’s parents operated a drive-in theater, and she began working there at the age of eight. She was an eager learner and also received dance lessons at the Vera Lynn School of Dance. Alongside her interest in music and dance, she loved reading books in her spare time. Twyla initially enrolled at Pomona College in California but transferred to Barnard College in New York City, where she graduated with a degree in Art History in 1963. In New York, she studied ballet with various renowned instructors such as Igor Schwezoff, Richard Thomas, Martha Graham, and Merce Cunningham.


In 1963, Twyla Tharp joined the Paul Taylor Dance Company. By that time, she was married to Peter Young and made her professional debut as Twyla Young. In 1965, she choreographed her first dance piece, “Tank Dive,” which was presented at Hunter College. Her passion for dance led her to establish her own company, Twyla Tharp Dance, in 1966. Throughout the 1970s, she gained nationwide acclaim for her innovative and creative choreography. Some of her notable works during this period include “Deuce Coupe” (1973), “Push Comes to Shove” (1976), and “Baker’s Dozen” (1979). Twyla Tharp also ventured into television, creating several programs for the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) series “Dance in America” and other television specials. In 1988, she disbanded her company and joined the American Ballet Theatre as an artistic associate until 1990. She returned to dancing in 1991 and rejoined the American Ballet Theatre as a choreographer in 1995. Her success revitalized the Twyla Tharp Dance Company, which embarked on a global tour from 1999 to 2003.

Awards & Achievements

Throughout her career, Twyla Tharp has received numerous awards and recognition for her contributions to dance. In 1985, she won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Choreography for “Baryshnikov by Tharp With American Ballet Theatre.” She was also awarded The Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance in 1991 for her production “In the Upper Room.” Twyla Tharp was inducted into the Academy of Achievement in 1993 and received the Tony Award for Choreography for the musical “Movin’ Out” in 2003. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and an Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Personal Life & Legacy

During her time at Pomona College, Twyla Tharp met Peter Young, whom she married in 1962. However, their marriage ended in divorce. She later married artist Bob Huot, and they had one son named Jesse, born in 1971. This marriage also ended in divorce.


Twyla Tharp was named after Twila Thornburg, the “Pig Princess” of the 89th Annual Muncie Fair in Indiana.

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