Twyla Tharp in Generation in the Wagner College gym, 1968 (photo  by Robert Propper).

Museum of Contemporary Art to Present Thoughtful Twyla Tharp Retrospective Minimalism and Me


This winter, The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago will present the world premiere of Minimalism and Me, an original program created specially for the MCA by legendary artist Twyla Tharp. One of the most acclaimed dancers and choreographers of the century, Tharp recollects the creation of her early seminal works and experiences living among major visual artists in New York City, as dancers from Twyla Tharp Dance re-create excerpts from the works she discusses. Accompanied by never-before-seen photographs and original cast films of several of her site-specific and gender-fluid performances, the program illuminates the progression of the Minimalism movement in the 1960s and 1970s and the influence it had on her choreography. 

The program draws from twenty important works Tharp made between 1965 and 1970 created for different spaces, including museums and the outdoors, and performed in silence. These rigorous works were governed by systems for organizing time and space which were illustrated in a series of artworks for the dances, including Re-MovesDisperseExcess Idle SurplusGroup Activities, After SuiteMedley, and Dancing in the Streets of London and Paris, continued in Stockholm, and sometimes Madrid. Samples--drawn from more than one thousand pages of charts, drawings, and sketches she made in this era to plan and document the twenty dances--are shown for the first time and examined from the perspective of the New York art world at the time.

Minimalism and Me is in part inspired by the MCA's 50th anniversary celebration and related archival exhibition, To The Racy Brink, which addresses many of Tharp's peers and the community of contemporary artists that formed the context for her innovations in dance. In New York in the late 1950s, the growth of dance companies and the cultivation of dancers by academies isolated choreographers from new, experimental trends. Breaking from this risk-averse climate in the 1960s--during the time the MCA began in Chicago--Tharp aligned with New York's community of artists, with whom she found ideas, collaborators, and an audience for her work. The choreography is injected with humor, combining technique with everyday movements, such as running, walking, and skipping.

​Tharp's style, which requires a high level of modern and balletic technique, embodies culture, identities, histories, and politics. Influenced by fellow dancers, artists, philosophers, and art admirers from diverse cultural backgrounds of New York City, Tharp's dances engaged with emerging ideals of social equality and community. In this culture, Tharp developed her populist conception of movement, which reflected her concern for the role of viewers and their physical relationship to art. Tharp continues to create today.

Twyla Tharp: Minimalism and Me runs from Thursday to Sunday, December 7 to 10, at the MCA Stage.

Tickets for the performances are $45 and are available at the MCA Box Office at 312.397.4010 or