“Breathe deeply, put your shoulders back, and allow your body to take up space.”
This is how renowned choreographer, Twyla Tharp, defines amplitude. With age, she says, “we start to retreat, retract, become protective, secluded and start to ossify.”
With her mantra that age is not the enemy, but stagnation is as her motivation, Twyla has captured her positive message in a new book entitled: Keep It Moving: lessons for the rest of your life.
Hailed as one of the great choreographers of our age, Twyla, at 78, continues to choreograph at the American Ballet Theatre, and continues to redefine ageing with it. “Don’t accept the rumour that the body becomes less,” she protests. “It becomes different, hopefully more.”
She acknowledges that a career as a professional dancer is short lived, with 35 years of age signalling the end. “Ageing is the last taboo,” she claims. “We will do everything we can to deny that we have turned the corner. I knew that I would have to confront and wrestle with this issue of ageing, or I would be stopped … and I am not interested in being stopped; I worked too long and too hard for that.”
Twyla rejects the notion that we should feel guilty for ageing, or try to deny it to be a full human being. “You’re just not attractive as you used to be,” she says, “I’m different from what I used to be. Age is a change, not a disease, so be curious and don’t be afraid.”
“I wrote this book to help others believe that you are constantly evolving,” she explains. “We have had the notion of stagnation laid on us by our culture.” She encourages each of us to bring our physical intelligence to bear, especially as we age, so that we are reminded constantly to be in motion.
How do we do this, you ask. Twyla says that it is optimism that she looks for in a dancer – “you can do it, and if you can’t now, you will” – and it is the same attitude that will allow us to ‘keep moving’.
Twyla recommends making a pledge rather than setting goals. “A goal is something that you can accomplish,” according to Twyla. “A pledge, however, is something that you are working constantly towards that will never be finished.” The implications of this distinction is that you will always be drawn forward into a new adventure when you have made a pledge.
You can watch Twyla’s interview by clicking here.