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Twyla Tharp Overview

born: 1941
born in: Portland, IN
lives in: New York
Considered the modern mistress of complex movement, Twyla Tharp takes Merce Cunningham's structural bylaws to their Postmodern conclusions. Tharp's propensity toward permutation and highly abstract schemes has renewed the maverick spirit of Modern Dance. An affluent child of suburbia, Tharp enjoyed... [more]

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Unknown User says:
“Twyla is also an excellent writer. I highly recommend her book The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life. A practical and inspiring look at building a personal creative process, this book offers tools for artists in all fields. Twyla Tharp has a Tony for her work on Movin' Out and in 2008 she was also appointed as a Kennedy Center Honoree.”
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Santo Loquasto Adds the Afterlife to the Worlds He's Designed

June 8, 2003 Santo Loquasto Adds the Afterlife to the Worlds He's Designed By VALERIE GLADSTONE SANTO LOQUASTO was behind schedule. On this chilly morning in February he was working on his set and costume designs for "HereAfter," a highlight of American Ballet Theater's current season. His other projects for the spring included Woody Allen's new movie "Anything Else" and Mr. Allen's new play "Writer's Block," and productions of "Long Day's Journey Into Night" on Broadway and "Love's Labour's Lost" at Stratford, Ontario. There was also the Metropolitan Opera's "Salome" for next season. Surprisingly, he appeared relaxed, even jovial, as his associates handled the phones in the small office in his apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Mr. Loquasto, 58, is one of the foremost set and costume designers. He has received nominations for countless awards, from Oscars to Obies to Tonys ó including a Tony nomination this year for "Long Day's Journey." In addition to filmmakers like Mr. Allen, he has worked with a veritable who's who of choreographers, including Agnes DeMille, Kenneth MacMillan, Paul Taylor, Bob Fosse, Jerome Robbins and Mark Morris. "I'm a romantic," he said. "I love the high level of fantasy dance allows." Mr. Loquasto grew up in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. He got hooked on theater in his teens, when his mother took him to see "Gypsy." He acted in high school plays and majored in liberal arts at King's College in Wilkes-Barre. He later studied theater production at the Yale Drama School. After a few summers at the Williamstown Theater in Massachusetts, he was asked by Joe Papp to become the resident designer at the Public Theater in New York. Later Jennifer Tipton, the lighting designer, introduced him to Mr. Taylor and Twyla Tharp. His apartment was covered with art books and magazines open to pages where he has found inspiration. "I lift from everyone," he said. "I call it being reverential." On the dining room table was a model of the set for "HereAfter": an ancient-looking temple, which reflected the ballet's spiritual themes. Nearby he spread out silky fabric in muted reds and blues, which he was considering for the costumes. "It's my job to help create a visual narrative," he said. Mr. Loquasto and Kevin McKenzie, the artistic director of Ballet Theater, first discussed "HereAfter" a year ago. Mr. McKenzie explained that the two-part work was about man's journey through life and death. Natalie Weir would choreograph one ballet to John Adams's "Harmonium" and Stanton Welch the other to Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana." Both are choral works, and the New York Choral Society would accompany them, which meant more than 100 singers had to be accommodated onstage. After hearing all the plans, Mr. Loquasto recalled saying to Mr. McKenzie, "What will you guys think of next?" Mr. McKenzie said: "Santo is undaunted by challenges. And he's sensitive to dancers' foibles, and insecurities, and takes them into account in his designs." Before designing anything for a dance, Mr. Loquasto listens to the score. "The music is the catalyst for me," he said. "It evokes a time, a place, a mood and frees me to imagine a whole world." At her first meeting with Mr. Loquasto, Ms. Weir told him that she wanted her ballet to reflect the music's spirituality. "I thought of opening with my main male figure suspended from the ceiling," she said, "as if in an embryonic state, between life and death." Mr. Loquasto sketched a cagelike contraption, and because Ms. Weir did not want it to appear as though the dancers and chorus were interacting, he devised see-through blinds that divide the chorus from the rest of the stage. "Santo understands that the designs should interact with the choreography," she said. "He gave clarity to the images in my work." In keeping with the ballet's tone, Mr. Loquasto suggested simple costumes that showed off the dancers' bodies. They looked natural enough to have been bought off the rack. In fact, some of them were. "I keep an eye on the money," he said. Mr. Loquasto often offers advice that affects the choreography. He worried that a ballet set to "Carmina Burana" might look kitschy. "It's very tricky," he said, "when you enter into primitive worlds." He designed unitards that make it appear as if the dancers' bodies have been painted; he also suggested that the dancers wear temporary tattoos. "I drew from Aztec, Mayan and aboriginal art, hoping to convey a sense of timelessness," he said. When Mr. Morris asked him to design costumes to look like M&M candies for his "Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes," Mr. Loquasto asked if he meant the inside or the outside, which sounds like a joke. But Mr. Loquasto chose brown, for its suitability to the Englishness of the piece. "My collaborations are my greatest reward," he said. "Whether they are combative, remedial or genuinely collaborative, I look forward to them, the ongoing ones for the pleasure of working with people I've known for years, and the new ones for the challenge. They're as exciting as romance." But Mr. Loquasto's relationships with choreographers, particularly with Robbins, have not always been easy. "No matter what I suggested, Jerry would do what he wanted to do, which was always the same thing," Mr. Loquasto recalled. "Once he asked me, `Why can't you do for me what you do for Twyla?' and I told him, `Because she allows me to respond and you're not interested.' " Mr. Loquasto and George Balanchine had a showdown over Robbins's "Four Seasons." When Balanchine saw that he had used the same color for the women's dresses and tights, he asked Mr. Loquasto to change the tights to dance briefs. "I told him that I could not cut their legs there," Mr. Loquasto said. "No one was going to think they were naked. After I made my pronouncement, he turned to someone nearby and remarked: `That's why I like working with Rouben Ter-Arutunian. He's not like Santo; he does exactly what I tell him to do.' " The women did not wear dance briefs. By late April, Mr. Loquasto was almost back on schedule with "HereAfter." All he had left were the final fittings in Barbara Matera's costume shop in downtown Manhattan. As he pinned layers of cloth on one patient dancer after another, he was still designing, trying to find just the right combination of patterns that would please the audience's eye, be comfortable for the dancer and enhance the choreography. "At times," Mr. Loquasto said, "I think I draw too broadly and have no real style of my own. But in a way I really shouldn't have a recognizable style. I'm supposed to represent the artist's vision, not mine." When it was suggested that he was an artist, he laughed and continued adjusting fabric on a dancer's leg. Valerie Gladstone is a freelance writer in New York who specializes in dance.
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