Saturday, April 23, 2011

Twyla Tharp on Creativity

The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life
If there's a lesson here it's: get busy copying. That's not a popular notion today, not when we are all instructed to find our own way, admonished to be original and find our own voice at all costs! But it's sound advice. Traveling the paths of greatness, even in someone else's footprints, is a vital means to acquiring skill.
                                                     Twyla Tharp,
                                                    The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life

I'm a big fan of R&D. Not research and development but "Rip Off and Duplicate". I use it in my work life as a means of creativity all the time. Take a good idea and give a twist or take it a step further. Not only does it give you a starting point, inspiration, and direction all in one, but it also saves you a ton of time. You don't have to start from scratch. Templates are there and you just fill them out with your personality.

Twyla Tharp is distinguished dancer and choreographer. She has worked as a choreographer for her own company, Broadway, television and film. Her most famous film work is probably the glorious Amadeus, which is in many ways a meditation on what Harold Bloom calls the "anxiety of influence". Maestro Salieri is torn apart by his jealousy of Mozart. But the tension over whether we are duplicating or creating need not be such a struggle. The best artists know that it is healthy to reproduce before you produce.

This is also the approach and foundational behind Hollywood Fashion Vault. Use the genius of the classic actresses but also the costume designers and stylist of the glamour mill. You don't have to create style from scratch. These films can be like training wheels to give you the skill and confidence to begin to create your own looks or go farther afield from your sources of inspiration. Use Edith Head, Helen Rose and Travilla. Use Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn. Start copying and it can be the fountainhead of your own creative style.


  1. Oh goodness....Twyla Tharp. We had to read that book as our "introduction in to college" my freshman year. The only parts that were interesting were when she talked about how she created the choreography for a show.

  2. She can be ponderous at times, for sure. But there are some good "nuggets" in there. Generally, a business book or tips book, if I can get a few good ideas, that plenty.



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