Charles Santos, Executive Director/Artistic Director of TITAS Presents and Twyla Tharp, dancer extraordinaire, have a storied history and share a vibrant passion for the arts.
On September 18-19, choreographer, author and dance legend Twyla Tharp kicks off her 50th anniversary tour in Dallas at the Winspear Opera House. The ATTPAC and TITAS Presents co-commissioned the piece, but for Charles Santos, Executive Director of TITAS Presents, it’s a homecoming of a more personal nature – he and Tharp have been friends for over a decade.
Long before they ever met, a 26-year-old Santos was a dancer and while in New York City bought a ticket to Tharp’s A Catherine Wheel. “As I watched it I thought ‘this is what dance is about,’” Santos says. “I got a sense that she really knew how to use technically trained artists and to fuse forms to make something entirely new.”
Then, many years later in 2001, something happened to the pair that brought them together amid difficult circumstances. Santos was the managing director/associate producer for the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC) in New York City, when he had the opportunity to host Tharp in LMCC’s World Trade Center location, just four days before 9/11. Tharp’s performance drew almost 3,000 people, and in fact, she became the last performer to ever grace the stage of the original World Trade Center. She and Santos refer to each other as “war buddies,” having experienced the loss and sadness that stemmed from that day. But their bond was forged.
“It’s interesting to know Twyla the ‘icon,’ and then later to get to know the person behind the ‘icon,’” Santos says. “She’s a remarkable presence. She’s bright and she’s tough and she’s funny.”
Almost a decade later, Tharp returned to Dallas with a newly commissioned work for the TITAS’ Command Performance Gala. While she was in town, Santos took her to Kalachandji’s, a temple that doubles as a vegetarian Indian buffet. Unbeknownst to Santos, the temple was hosting a Hare Krishna festival, so the pair arrived at the temple in the middle of what looked like a recreation of the be-in scene in Hair, the motion picture which Tharp choreographed. Santos laughs as he remembers it. “I swore to her that I didn’t plan it!”
Hair is just one example of Twyla’s influence on popular culture. “She completely changed the landscape of the dance world,” Santos explains. “You know in the film The Birdcage, when Robin Williams is directing and he says ‘Now Twyla, Twyla, Twyla!’ along with all the other famous names? She’s made dance a part of American culture, instead of this rarified thing. People who know nothing about dance, know the name Twyla Tharp.”
Tharp’s book The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life, is the go-to gift that Santos passes on to aspiring artists. “It talks about her rituals and her commitment, and it just shows what her legacy will be, Santos says. “She’s a true artist. A genius and a true artist.”
When Tharp returns to Dallas this September, Santos won’t be the only one in the audience with a personal connection to her. As the rare talent who inspires both personal and professional admiration, Twyla will draw arts lovers, artists, dancers and friends who won’t miss this historic moment.
If you would like to purchase a ticket to Twyla Tharp’s 50th anniversary tour, please visit: http://titas.org/