American Masters: Twyla Moves (w.t) Announcement

Air date: 09/08/2020

Stick Figure Entertainment to Produce Documentary on Legendary Choreographer Twyla Tharp for American Masters on PBS

NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 8, 2020 – Stick Figure Entertainment, in association with American Masters Pictures, is proud to announce Twyla Moves, a feature documentary on legendary dancer, director and choreographer Twyla Tharp. The film will have its exclusive U.S. broadcast premiere as part of the American Masters series on PBS, and will feature never-before seen interviews and select performances from Tharp’s vast array of more than 160 choreographed works, including 129 dances, 12 television specials, six major Hollywood movies, four full-length ballets, four Broadway shows and two figure skating routines.

Twyla Moves will provide a first-hand glimpse into the legendary choreographer’s storied career and famously rigorous creative process. A pioneer of both modern dance and ballet, Tharp will share intimate details behind her trailblazing dances (“Fugue,” “Push Comes to Shove,” “Baker’s Dozen”), her cinematic partnership with Miloš Forman (Hair, Amadeus, Ragtime) and her wildly successful Broadway career alongside such luminaries as Billy Joel, Frank Sinatra and David Byrne. Tracing her influential career, the film follows Tharp as she builds a high-profile work from the ground up with an international cast of stars (Misty Copeland, Herman Cornejo, Maria Khoreva) who rehearse by video conference during the coronavirus pandemic.

In Twyla Moves, Tharp will revisit her most memorable pieces through archival footage.

Reflecting on her road to success and her quest to constantly evolve as a person and a choreographer, she will share her favorite stories of triumph and defeat, and how she remains deeply in love with dance. The documentary also features interviews with her family, friends and closest collaborators: the dancers, choreographers, directors and musicians she’s worked with and influenced throughout her life, including Mikhail Baryshnikov, Billy Joel, David Byrne, Bob Dylan, and more.

Twyla Moves reinforces her standing as a preeminent figure of dance and is directed by Academy Award-nominated and Emmy Award-winning director Steven Cantor (DANCER, BALLET NOW, WILLIE NELSON: STILL IS STILL MOVING for American Masters), produced by Emmy Award-winning producer Jamie Schutz (STEP, CHASING TYSON, BETWEEN ME AND MY MIND), and executive produced by Emmy and Peabody Award-winner Michael Kantor for American Masters Pictures (MAYA ANGELOU: AND STILL I RISE, TONI MORRISON: THE PIECES I AM, BOMBSHELL: THE HEDY LAMARR STORY.) David Koh will oversee global sales.

“I’ve made a lot of pieces, though never participated in one about myself,” says Tharp. “I’ve spent an entire career challenging myself and others to work outside of their comfort zone and this global pandemic certainly presents a challenge of the highest degree. It also brings time to reflect, and I look forward to collaborating with Steven in exploring pivotal stories, revisiting memorable pieces and discussing why and how I make dance.”

“I have known Twyla and been trying to talk her into this for years, and I’m thrilled and honored that she has finally decided to trust me to help tell her story,” says New York-based filmmaker and Stick Figure founder Steven Cantor. “My parents are longtime fans and, when I was a child, took me to see Twyla’s performances at every opportunity. I always marveled at her boundary-pushing bravado and constant desire to pursue new challenges, so I can’t wait to pull back the curtain in her stories and her process.”

“Twyla Tharp has the kind of irrepressible energy that defines so many great artists,” says American Masters Executive Producer Michael Kantor. “She is a force of nature who creates indelible experiences for audiences. We are grateful that she is affording us incredible access to capture her energy both onstage and off in this one-of-a-kind film.”

“We’re very excited to bring Twyla’s story to the screen,” says producer Jamie Schutz. “From a small town in Indiana to the brightest of lights in New York City, her path is inspiring and impressive and she certainly belongs in the prestigious canon of American Masters.”

Support for American Masters is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, AARP, Rosalind P. Walter, Judith and Burton Resnick, Lillian Goldman Programming Endowment, Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family Foundation, The Vital Projects Fund, The Blanche & Irving Laurie Foundation, Seton J. Melvin, The Philip and Janice Levin Foundation, Ellen and James S. Marcus, The André and Elizabeth Kertész Foundation and public television viewers.

About Stick Figure Entertainment

Founded by award-winning filmmaker Steven Cantor and led by award-winning producer Jamie Schutz, Stick Figure has produced over 400+ hours of film and television for more than 40 networks and studios such as HBO, SHOWTIME, FOX, ESPN, IFC, E!, VH1, TWC, BBC, A&E, and National Geographic.  Stick Figure’s accolades include an Oscar nomination, multiple Emmy awards, and nominations for Best Documentary and Series, Special Jury Award at Sundance, Audience Award at AFI, Best Feature Film at the LA Independent Film Festival, and official selections at Sundance Film Festival (nine films), TIFF, Berlin, Telluride, Tribeca, Venice, and more. Most recently, Stick Figure debuted the YouTube series STAY HOME WITH: YUNGBLUD, following the British rockstar as he spent a month in quarantine with his band, writing and releasing new music and connecting with fans and family from a distance. Their upcoming film, HOOD RIVER, follows an Oregon soccer team struggling with issues of race and leadership, was made in partnership with Executive Producer Robert Rodriguez. Stick Figure also premiered two films at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival: WHAT WILL BECOME OF US, about The Westfield Group’s iconic founder Frank Lowy and his incredible journey from a teen escaping WWII to Australian business tycoon; and BETWEEN ME AND MY MIND, which reveals the creative process of Phish’s lead singer, Trey Anastasio. In 2018, Stick Figure released a feature documentary for Hulu, BALLET NOW, that follows NYCB superstar, Tiler Peck, as she curates and stars in a show at LA’s Music Center made in partnership with Paul Allen’s Vulcan Productions and Executive Producer Elisabeth Moss. Stick Figure is currently in production on a PBS American Masters documentary about legendary choreographer TWYLA THARP. Upcoming projects include AMERICAN GIRLS, a coming of age story of Chinese- American teenage girls, directed by Amanda Lipitz and produced in partnership with Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine; CITIZEN ASHE, about tennis legend and groundbreaking human rights advocate Arthur Ashe, featuring exclusive unreleased archival materials and John Legend as Executive Producer; WHEN CLAUDE GOT SHOT, which delves into one weekend of interconnected gun violence in inner city Milwaukee that affects three strangers forever, with Snoop Dogg as Executive Producer; and multiple documentary series in development ranging from a true crime series with Discovery to a music series with Amazon to several social impact projects.

About American Masters Pictures

Founded in 2016 by executive producer Michael Kantor, American Masters Pictures is WNET’s theatrical imprint for documentaries co-produced by American Masters, the award-winning biography series that celebrates our arts and culture. American Masters Pictures partners with filmmakers, distributors and sales agents on non-broadcast releases including film festivals, theatrical, online, DVD, VOD and OTT, with PBS as the exclusive U.S. broadcaster of all films as part of the American Masters series. Films include Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool, N. Scott Momaday: Words from a Bear, Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am, Sammy Davis, Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me, Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story, Itzhak, Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You, Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise and Garry Winogrand: All Things are Photographable. Since 1986, American Masters has set the standard for documentary film profiles, accruing widespread critical acclaim: 28 Emmy Awards — including 10 for Outstanding Non-Fiction Series and five for Outstanding Non-Fiction Special — 14 Peabodys, an Oscar, three Grammys, two Producers Guild Awards and many other honors. The series is a production of THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC for WNET.


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Twyla instructing at Pacific Northwest Ballet in 2008. Courtesy of Marc von Borstel.