Monday, July 4, 2011

Well, I finally got to the place in the Twyla Tharp book where I stopped reading it the last time.

I used to teach childbirth classes. I sometimes worked with a hypnotherapist doing the relaxation exercises in class and have taken a workshop on hypnotherapy to see how it works. One of the techniques was that you start off with something the person already believes, like in childbirth-class-relaxations it would be to pay attention to your breathing. With every breath in you bring oxygen to your baby and with every breath out you release toxins like carbon dioxide.' This is a fact that they can't deny. Next you add 'along with the toxins you are also releasing anything else you don't need, tension, negativity, etc.' Not a fact, but because you gave them a fact first, they are more likely to believe these other suggestions. Another really good example of this technique is the book 'Coyote Medicine' by Lewis Mehl-Madrona (who incidentally is the ex-husband of the person that I took the hypnotherapy workshop from.) He starts off the book as an intern in medical school that becomes a doctor. Gives a lot of interesting factual info and stories, but by the end of the book you are in sweat lodges, experiencing stories of alternative healing, native medicine, etc. and you are believing every single word of it. This technique is a skill.

I think that Twyla Tharp tries using this technique, but isn't quite as successful in her book.
She takes a huge leap in believability in the chapter called 'your creative DNA.' She gives some examples of how Jerome Robbins grew up wanting to be a puppeteer and how this relates to how he sees things, from a distance. Then she talks about Raymond Chandler and how he sees things 'close up' with lots and lots of detail.

Ok, so I'm still listening, waiting to see where she's going.

She bases art on how people see the world and that we don't consciously make that choice, it is decided by our DNA.  She begins to talk about how she is pulled between involvement and detachment. She needs detachment in order to understand her work. How she lived in one end of her house growing up so she could maintain her rigorous schedule and the rest of her family lived at the other end of the house.

Then I get to the place where I stopped reading the book the last time.
       ... my mother told me that at birth I was a noisy, ill-mannered baby in the hospital. The only way the
      nurses could shut me up was to put me out in the hallway by myself where I could see everything
      going on around me. I quieted down instantly. Even then, I didn't want to be on the inside, crowded
      with other people. I wanted to be on the outside, watching (p. 41).

For me this is a huge leap. Maybe it was all those years of teaching childbirth and parenting classes. I just don't believe that a newborn baby's DNA wants them to be detached. If anything their DNA wants them to be ATtached in order to survive.  It pains me to see the language she uses regarding a newborn... "noisy, ill-mannered baby"  "put me out in the hallway by myself" "shut me up" and to relate this as being 'DNA.' This is more of a rationalization than anything really useful and it's where I stopped believing in what she was saying. She lost credibility for me here.

TADA #164 6/19/11But had I gone on to read the rest of the chapter (Because I am going to finish reading the book this time. There are things in it that are good.) I would have found out about zoe and bios, which is something I totally can relate to. "Zoe and bios both mean life in Greek, but they are not synonyous" (p.42). Zoe is more about life in general, without being specific, bios distinguishes one living thing from another. The way that I think and do art is totally zoe, more "...the essence of life, not the details of living" (p. 43). This was really huge for me to understand. I have always admired people who tell a story with their art, but whenever I've tried to do it, the piece always seemed contrived. Understanding this distinction helps me see more of the story that I am personally trying to tell, that I'm in the right place and going in the right direction.

"Robert Benchley wrote that there are two kinds of people in the world: those who divide the world into two kinds of people, and those who don't... I have issues with ambiguity, preferring my distinctions to be black or white" (p. 40). I guess out of those 2 classifications I find that I am also one of those people who sees things in black and white. I found something I didn't like in the book, so I quit reading it. (I won't bore you with all the other times in my life I have done this!!) DNA or not, I don't think that we always have to be locked into a certain way of thinking, it might be hard for us to adjust, but it is possible and I am going to finish reading this book. I will keep you updated on the good parts.

Work cited:
Tharp, Twyla. The Creative Habit Learn It and Use It for Life. Simon & Schuster, 2003. Print.


  1. Interesting review, Evelyn. She does have strong opinions.

  2. Yea, I've a lot of the stuff she talks about isn't really worth much, but there are a few things so far that I've found interesting. I am going to finish reading it!

  3. Thanks for the in-depth review Evelyn. She would have lost me too in this part about detachment in the new born babies. But I'm glad that you continue reading it. Sounds like a thought provoking book.

  4. I'll keep you guys posted on the highlights!