Arts and Entertainment | Dance

Twyla Tharp, BC ’63, headed to Barnard next fall

  • Tianyue Sun / Senior Staff Photographer
    1, 2, step | Students involved with Barnard/Columbia Dances at Miller Theatre rehearse earlier this week. One of the pieces they’ll perform is Twyla Tharp’s “Treefrog in Stonehenge.”

Dancer and choreographer Twyla Tharp, BC ’63, will be Barnard’s distinguished guest artist starting next fall, according to a press release the college sent Thursday afternoon. 

During her time at Barnard through spring 2015, Tharp will be teaching master classes and leading workshops, as well as lecturing and working on projects between dance and other disciplines. 

“This is an incredible opportunity for our students, faculty, and neighbors to interact with and learn from Ms. Tharp, her work and her expertise,” Barnard President Debora Spar said in the press release. “I am thrilled to welcome her back to Barnard and thank her for sharing her talents with us.”

“I am pleased to return to campus, and I look forward to a year of exploration and collaboration with Barnard’s bright and talented students and faculty,” Tharp said in the news release. 

Between her work with American Ballet Theatre and her own dance company—which would later merge—and choreographing for most major dance companies in the U.S. and internationally, Tharp’s has long been a prominent name in the dance world. The prospect of learning from and working with Tharp has faculty and student dancers excited.

“Twyla’s work motivated my move to New York City as a young dancer, and I have no doubt that she will similarly motivate the next generation of developing artists through her work as we move into the 21st century,” Barnard dance department co-chair Katie Glasner said in the press release. 

“We’re very happy to have her,” Barnard ballet technique instructor Kathy Sullivan said in a phone interview. “I’ve enever taken class with her but I did have friends that were in her company ... and thought she was a genius and just way ahead of her time.” 

Students—even those who aren’t very involved with Barnard’s dance department—are looking forward to the opportunities that having Tharp on campus will provide and to what it means to student dancers. 

“This is a significant step for the dance department,” John Poppe, SEAS ’15 and executive director of Columbia Ballet Collaborative, said in a phone interview. “It’s a clear indication that there are changes being made in the dance department. It’s a major step toward making the dance department more of a professional environment for aspiring dancers.”

For dancers, Poppe said, working with someone as well-known as Tharp is a way to get more people involved in Barnard’s dance department who might not otherwise be interested. Even before Thursday’s announcement, Poppe said that CBC dancers were drawn to this year’s Barnard/Columbia Dances at Miller Theatre because it features a piece by Tharp. 

“I’m definitely excited,” Poppe said. “Twyla Tharp is a name everyone knows in the dance community. Just the shock value of having someone known come to Barnard is a draw for students.”

Before Tharp arrives in the fall, she’ll be in LeFrak Gymnasium on Saturday doing a lecture-demonstration of her piece “Treefrog in Stonehenge,” which is being performed this weekend as part of Barnard/Columbia Dances at Miller Theatre.

david.salazar@columbiaspectator.com | @davidj_salazar

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