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The Collaborative Habit: Life Lessons for Working Together Hardcover – November 24, 2009

4.4 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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Face it, “team” has become an overused, overdone, even overwhelming business word––formalized in sports and extended to the predominantly male corporate world. Yet running as undertones throughout this latest contribution from world-famed choreographer and author Tharp (Push Comes to Shove 1993 and The Creative Habit 2006), is the sense that it’s more than time for a kinder, gentler, and wiser take on working together. In 2009 and beyond, that word is “collaboration”; writing primarily from the arts perspective, she weaves stories in and out of her points, as in collaboration should be a challenge and change, vis-à-vis her partnership with Mikhail Baryshnikov; or underscoring how to collaborate with a community is her tale of creating two ballets for the Pacific. Every chapter also features a collaborator or two, highlighting lessons to learn and listen to, from Duke’s longtime basketball coach Mike Kryzyzewski to scientists Marie and Pierre Curie. If collaboration, as Tharp claims, is truly the buzzword of the millennium, then consider her as standard-bearer, motivator, and philosopher. --Barbara Jacobs

About the Author

Twyla Tharp, one of America's greatest choreographers, began her career in 1965, and has created more than 130 dances for her company as well as for the Joffrey Ballet, The New York City Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet, London's Royal Ballet, and American Ballet Theatre. She has won two Emmy awards for television's Baryshnikov by Tharp, and a Tony Award for the Broadway musical Movin' Out. The recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in 1993 and was made an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1997. She lives and works in New York City.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1St Edition edition (November 24, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416576509
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416576501
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #847,710 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I was eager to own this book after hearing Ms Tharp (who I think is brilliant)interviewed on NPR. After reading the book jacket and reviews here on Amazon I even thought this book might be a good gift for my work team at our annual training. Unfortunately the book is mostly anecdotes strung together into chapter form, triple spaced in large font format; perhaps charming, but not a substantial read. I felt compelled to write a review because this is not "how-to" or a "business book" as the jacket claims and the current reviews here are somewhat misleading. Buy it if you love theater and want a slim text to adorn your coffee table but don't expect more.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I enjoyed Tharp's The Creative Habit immensely. I consider it one of the clearest statements of what it takes to succeed in a creative field, be it dance, art, engineering, or any of the sciences. So I dove into this with high hopes.

I fully agree with everything she says. Collaborations differ according to whether the rest of the team is nearby or distant, or is a friend, institution, or community. Collaboration is learned, and it matters critically in all but the smallest kind of endeavor. And, as in everything else, careful preparation and hard, continuous work improve your chances of success as much as they can be improved. Tharp illustrates these points largely through her own experience with dancers like Barishnikov, dance companies around the world, and small companies of her own. Always, in the relationship between choreographer and dancer, there is an asymmetry: the choreographer designs and the dancer executes. Tharp emphasizes the other half of this relationship as well: the choreographer pays close attention to each dancer, as well, in order to discover and play to their unique strengths. And, of course, performers collaborate with the audience. She illustrates this with "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum." That nearly failed as a stage production until the creators added one song: the introduction, "... comedy tonight." Once viewers had their expectations set properly, they loved it.

Each chapter ends with a case study: Steve Martin, clothing designer Norma Kamali, her experience with David Byrne, and more. These add focus and concreteness to the discussion. They also emphasize the rewards of successful collaboration for all concerned.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As is my custom when a new year begins, I recently re-read this book and The Creative Habit while preparing questions for interviews of thought leaders. The insights that Twyla Tharp shares in them are, if anything, more valuable now than when the books were first published.

It would be a mistake to ignore the reference to "habit" in their titles because almost three decades of research conducted by K. Anders Ericsson and his associates at Florida State University clearly indicate that, on average, at least 10,000 hours of must be invested in "deliberate," iterative practice under strict and expert supervision to achieve peak performance, be it playing a game such as chess or a musical instrument such as the violin. Natural talent is important, of course, as is luck. However, with rare exception, it takes about ten years of sustained, focused, supervised, and (yes) habitual practice to master the skills that peak performance requires.

Tharp is both a dancer and a choreographer and thus brings two authoritative, indeed enlightened perspectives to her discussion of the life lessons for working together. Many of the same requirements for effective collaboration on classic Disney animated films such as Snow White and Pinocchio must also be accommodated when members of an orchestra and of a ballet company collaborate on a performance of Stravinsky's The Firebird.

Tharp characterizes herself as a "career collaborator" who identifies problems, organizes them, and solves them by working with others. Many of the stories she shares in this book "involve the world of dance, but you don't have to know anything about dance to get the pint. Work is work.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
While much of the content consists of anecdotes from Tharp's career, helpful nuggets are there for the attentive reader. It's not a how-to manual, rather a collection of personal learnings which can be transferred to many settings.
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Format: Hardcover
The first time I took the elevator to Twyla Tharp's penthouse was a grey, chilly morning in early April. We sat in her minimalist office that overlooked a terrace that overlooked Central Park, but when you're in a room with Twyla Tharp, it's hard to notice anything else.

To say she can be intimidating is to understate.

Her features are sharp, her hair is no-nonsense white, her glasses are oversized and round. Somewhere below her neck is a small, taut body, and a white shirt and loose jeans, but none of that matters. Only her gaze does, and it was focused on this newcomer with curiosity and skepticism.

I thought: I am not worthy.

I'm surely not the first to think that. Tharp revolutionized dance with her insistence that classical ballet and modern movement need not be antagonists, and over a 40-year career, she's explored that breakthrough idea in a dizzying catalogue of greatest hits. She's choreographed movies. She's had a Broadway hit. She was anointed with a MacArthur Fellowship, the one that certifies you as a "genius". And she's written two books. One is an autobiography,"Push Comes to Shove". The other, "The Creative Habit; Learn It and Use It for Life", is a surprise --- a wise guide for the general reader about harnessing your personal creativity.

It was a book that brought us together. Her new one, "The Collaborative Habit: Life Lessons for Working Together", would be published by Simon & Schuster in November. She'd written enough for several volumes, and would, in time, surely have been able to carve a book out of it. But she was also embarking on a new show --- "Come Fly With Me", a night of dance built around Frank Sinatra songs --- and her time was tight.
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