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Legendary dancer and choreographer Twyla Tharp offers her advice for aging

“Although we retreat within our body [as we age], we can expand outward physically.”

Legendary dancer and choreographer Twyla Tharp offers her advice for aging
[Photo: Annie Leibovitz/Trunk Archive]

“I’ve always approached my time on this planet as a progression,” says 78-year-old modern dance icon Twyla Tharp. “It isn’t about chasing youth. It’s about preserving vitality from day one all the way out.” In her fourth book, Keep It Moving: Lessons for the Rest of Your Life, published last October, Tharp explains how to do just that, and she remains proof that the lessons work: Tharp spent February and March 2019 working with the Mariinsky Ballet in St. Petersburg, Russia, as it prepared to put on her 1976 piece Push Comes to Shove. That March, she staged an evening of some of her biggest hits at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. She also choreographed a new ballet for the American Ballet Theatre, called A Gathering of Ghosts, which premiered in October, and she continues to train dancers from the ABT and other companies remotely.

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Fast Company: What do you hope readers will take from the book?

Twyla Tharp: I’m at an age where folks are saying, “You had a career.” Well, I had a career and now I can have another. All dancers, [and] all athletes, think, Soon I will be old. And I’m like, No, you will be different. Keep It Moving has a target audience of older folks, but the reality is that you are aging every day of your life.

FC: Why did you write it as a book of advice?

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TT: The book is practical because that’s what a dancer is. I wanted to translate the philosophical to the physical. Like the concept of taking up space: I examine the idea that [although] we retreat within our body [as we age], we can expand outward physically.

FC: How have you kept moving at home?

TT: I have a small studio in my apartment. It’s important to move and to have a regimen. Change out of your pajamas, which are for sleeping, into sweats, which are your work clothes. Even if you don’t have much space, you can still move in what I call your postage stamp. Every day, ask your body what it would do if it didn’t hurt, then deal with the hurt first. You have to be your own best doctor.

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