Twyla Tharp's Got 'The Creative Habit'

In a rare facetious mood, Martha Graham once stated, "Everyone is born with genius, but some people only keep it for 15 minutes." The age-old contention that all creative acts stem from mysterious sources or are touched by the hands of assorted deities takes quite a shellacking in Twyla Tharp's book "The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life," which she wrote with Mark Reiter. One of her initial remarks to be taken seriously is, "Whether or not God has kissed your brow, you still have to work. Without learning and preparation, you won't know how to harness the power of that kiss."

She goes on to state, "In order to be creative, you have to know how to prepare to be creative." She proceeds to delve into rituals of preparation, not just for dancers but for all creative disciplines, among them performing artists, graphic artists, writers, medical researchers, and more.

Tharp explains, "Dancers are totally governed by ritual. It begins with class at 10 am to noon every day. What makes it a ritual is they do it without questioning the need."

Her own ritual commences at 5:30 am, when she goes to the Pumping Iron Gym and works out for two hours. She impresses on the reader: "Like everyone, I have days when I wake up, stare at the ceiling, and ask myself, 'Gee, do I feel like working out today?' But the quasi-religious power I attach to this ritual keeps me from rolling over and going back to sleep."

The chapter on starting out of a box is one of the most valuable. In it, Tharp explains how she commences every dance with a box. She fills it with everything that goes into the making of a dance, including notebooks, CDs, videotapes, videos of dancers rehearsing, photographs, and pieces of art that may have inspired her. She goes into detail regarding her biggest success to date, "Movin' Out," and her collaboration with Billy Joel. Eventually, the material for the show filled up 12 boxes.

But, she warns, "Now let me tell you what a box isn't. The box is not a substitute for creating. The box doesn't compose or write a poem or create a dance step. The box is the raw index of your preparation. It is the repository of your creative potential, but it is not that potential realized."

The importance of reading is also stressed: "Reading generates ideas, because you're literally filling your head with ideas and letting your imagination filter them for something useful. If I stopped reading, I'd stop thinking, it's that simple."

Also of utmost importance is the chapter titled "Skill." "What successful people in all professions have in common is that they have mastered the underlying skills of their creative domain, and built their creativity on the solid foundation of their skills." Tharp also advises: "Skill is how you close the gap between what you can see in your mind's eye and what you can produce; the more skill you have, the more sophisticated and accomplished your ideas can be."

The most exciting reading of all turns out to be how she managed to save "Movin' Out" after it took a clobbering from Chicago critics, reworking it into the success achieved in New York.

The lady always displays guts in abundance.

Published by Simon & Schuster, hardcover, 243 pages, $25.

NY Thr. Ballet Revives Classics

New York Theatre Ballet, the small chamber company that has earned a reputation for its first-rate productions of popular classics, is presenting a revival of works by acclaimed choreographers Frederick Ashton, George Balanchine, and Antony Tudor, along with a new work by Italian choreographer Marco Pelle.

In honor of Ashton and Balanchine's 100th birthdays, NYTB will present Balanchine's "A La Francaix" and the New York premiere of Ashton's "Capriol Suite." An early Ashton work that premiered in London in 1930, "Capriol Suite" is based on a suite of period dances from the 16th century that he choreographed with a mixture of simplicity, style, and invention. It was this ballet that first marked Ashton as a young choreographer to watch. The work is staged by Amanda Eyles, notator for the Benesh Institute in London.

Balanchine's "A La Francaix" is a rarely performed comic gem first staged in 1951 by New York City Ballet, in which he affectionately lampoons the conventions of romantic ballet with just a hint of Broadway thrown in for good measure. Marina Eglevsky, the daughter of André Eglevsky, is coming to New York from California to stage the ballet. NYTB's highly praised performance of "Judgment of Paris" by Antony Tudor will also be revived for the second year in a row.

The company has added John Taras' "Designs With Strings" ballet to its classic revivals in tribute to the late choreographer, who died at the beginning of April. The ballet is set to music by Tchaikovsky (his "Piano Trio in A Minor, Second Movement") and was first presented in 1948 in Edinburgh by the Metropolitan Ballet of London.

Taras was choreographer and ballet master for the Grand Ballet du Marquis de Cuevas from 1948 to 1959, a period in which he choreographed eight ballets. In 1959, he joined New York City Ballet as assistant and ballet master to George Balanchine and remained until Balanchine's death in 1983. In 1984, he was invited by Mikhail Baryshnikov to join American Ballet Theatre, where he served as associate director until 1990.

Venue: Florence Gould Hall, 55 East 59th St., NYC. Performances: Fri. and Sat., April 23 and 24, at 8 pm. Tickets: $30 for adults, $15 for students and seniors, discounts for groups of 10 or more, available by calling the box office at (212) 355-6160 or Ticketmaster at (212) 307-4100, or online at www.henrystreet.org.

New Dance Fest at Abrons Arts Ctr.

The Abrons Arts Center at Henry Street Settlement will build on its history and strong tradition of innovative professional dance that was paved by dance greats Alwin Nikolais, Martha Graham, and Anna Sokolow to present a new dance event, the "Breaking Lines Dance Festival."

The festival will begin with a special opening-night event on April 22 honoring Paradigm, the trio made up of distinguished dancers Carmen DeLavallade, Gus Solomons, Jr., and Dudley Williams, all of whom have burst through many barriers in dance. Other companies performing include Carolyn Dorfman Dance Company, Kun-Yang Lin Dancers, and Darrah Carr Dance.

Venue: The Harry de Jur Playhouse at Abrons Arts Center at Henry Street Settlement, 466 Grand St. (at Pitt Street), NYC. Performances: Thurs., April 22, at 7:30 pm; Sat., April 24, at 8:30 pm; Sun., April 25, at 3 pm; Wed.-Sat., April 28-May 1, at 8 pm; and Sun., May 2, at 3 pm. Tickets: $50 for the opening night gala; $10 for adults and $5 for children at all other performances, available by calling (212) 598-0400, ext. 222; further info is available at www.henrystreet.org.

DanceBrazil's New York Season

DanceBrazil celebrates its 27th anniversary New York City season with a two-week long engagement at the Joyce Theater from April 20-May 2. The company will premiere two new works: "Angels of the Asphalt," choreographed by Artistic Director Jelon Vieira, and "Mameluco," choreographed by Brazilian guest artist Matias Santiago. There will be A and B programs during the run that include past repertoire works to be announced.

Venue: The Joyce Theater, 175 Eighth Ave., NYC. Performances: Week one, April 20-25: Tues. at 7:30 pm, Wed.-Sat. at 8 pm, and Sun. at 2 and 7:30 pm; week two, April 27-May 2: Tues.-Fri. at 8 pm, Sat. at 2 and 8 pm, Sun. at 7:30 pm. Tickets: $40, available by calling JoyceCharge at (212) 242-0800, online at www.joyce.org, or at the box office.