Fight for It

Olafur Eliasson's "Slow-motion shadow in colour," which inspired Wayne McGregor's new Tree of Codes. Photo by Olafur Eliasson, courtesy Resnicow & Associates.


Female choreographers are unfortunately rare in ballet. Yet Twyla Tharp has a piece in the rep of almost every top ballet troupe in America. How did she do it? You could argue that it’s partly because she doesn’t come from a ballet background. But more to the point, she’s the kind of woman who knows what she wants—and she’s not afraid to fight for it. “You can’t sit back and say we’ve been exploited and taken advantage of,” Tharp tells writer Gia Kourlas in our cover story. “It’s like, Get out there and fix it. If you want something, you have to do it yourself.”

Now celebrating her 50th anniversary with a nationwide tour, Tharp has built a reputation for her uncompromising vision and steely will. Whether she’s choreographing for ballet, Broadway, film or her own troupe, that incredible drive has made her one of the most successful, respected—and, yes, intimidating—choreographers working today. Longtime Tharp dancer Rika Okamoto admits that the challenges of meeting Tharp’s exacting standards still sometimes leave her in tears after rehearsal. But Tharp is known for pulling the best out of her dancers. “You discover yourself through challenge,” Okamoto explains. “Twyla always asks me at the end of the day, ‘Rika, what did you learn?’ ”

Tharp’s tour isn’t the only reason to be excited about this upcoming season. We scoured all the dance performances coming this fall and got the scoop on the 10 most intriguing, from Wayne McGregor’s new experiment on Paris Opéra dancers to the liquid hip hop of Antoinette Gomis at the Breakin’ Convention.


Personally, I’m most excited by Sylvie Guillem’s farewell tour, featuring choreography by Mats Ek, Akram Khan and Russell Maliphant. Guillem is another strong woman who spent her career steering it the way she wanted, earning her the nickname “Mademoiselle Non.” That kind of control can sometimes seem unattainable to the average dancer. But we are trained to achieve the seemingly impossible from the first day we’re asked to stand on one leg and not fall over. Don’t let what has or hasn’t been done before be a reason to stop trying. If there’s an opportunity you want, fight for it.



Cast Your Votes!

We know you’ve got opinions, and we want to hear them. For a feature in Dance Magazine’s December issue, we’re asking all of our readers to vote on the best new production, best revival, best emerging choreographer, best male performance and best female performance of 2015. Send your votes to, and tell us why by September 28. Then, stay tuned for December to see the results.


Jennifer Stahl

Editor in Chief