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Tharp inspires listeners to dance

Nearly 1,000 people from the Drake and Des Moines communities gathered in the Knapp Center on Monday night to listen to renowned dancer, choreographer and author Twyla Tharp as she presented the 26th Martin Bucksbaum Distinguished Lecture.

Tharp focused her speech on the concepts of creativity, hard work and inspiration.  She was able to pull in examples from her dancing experience as well as several excerpts from her books “The Collaborative Habit: Life Lessons on Working Together” and “The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life” which related significantly to the subject at hand.

“I believe we all are creative and we can increase our creativity by certain simple practices that we do daily,” Tharp began.

As she continued, Tharp discussed how she has found dancing as a creative outlet throughout her life.

“Dancing was the only place I could begin to challenge myself physically,” she said.  “Dancers are wondrous creatures.  They are silent forces of great beauty, and at their best, they’ll run through walls for you.”

Junior and co-captain of Drake’s dance team Beth Branding agreed that dance is a great, unique source of creativity and a way of expressing oneself.

“You have such an outlet for everything you’re going through through dance,” she said.  “You have to pull from within yourself and find your personal reason for why you want to dance.”

Tharp went on to note the importance of hard work and preparation.  She noted several of the shows she has worked on, and the effort it took to make these shows successful, including “Movin’ Out,” a Broadway production set to the music of Billy Joel.  Tharp engaged in extensive research not only on Joel’s music to find a plot, but once a plot was devised, she researched the Vietnam War, which was the time period that the show was set in.

“She really focused a lot on preparation,”said junior and co-captain of Drake’s dance team Morgan Meier.  “If you want something you have to research and prepare, you have to work for it.  She was serious about doing that.”

The larger part of Tharp’s lecture focused on the idea of inspiration. She called forward a volunteer, first-year Monica Worsley, whom she instructed to sit on the stage with her knees to her chest and her head down, somewhat resembling an egg.  She later called up a second volunteer, Jo Anne Reed of Colfax, Iowa, who was told to dump out her purse and arrange its contents into patterns. This exercise was used to demonstrate the simple creativity and inspiration that can occur in everyday situations.

When Worsley was told to stand up, Tharp explained why she had put Worsley in a position resembling an egg.

“An egg is a thing in process that is always not exactly the same,” she said.  “When you set out to work and have a lot of trouble working, you think it won’t be perfect. As beautiful as an egg is, neither is an egg because it is always changing.”

Tharp ended her lecture answering questions from people in the audience.  Overall, Tharp’s speech seemed to connect with several people.

“For our dance team, it was an honor to be able to listen to a professional and to gain this sort of knowledge and inspiration,” Branding said.

The next Bucksbaum Lecture, being presented in October, will feature author, humorist and radio host Garrison Keillor.

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