Twyla Tharp grew up in Southern California. Her mother, a piano teacher, started giving Twyla piano lessons when she was only two, and dance lessons at age four. She also studied other musical instruments, baton twirling, painting, and languages. She attended Barnard College in New York City, but her main focus was on the dance classes she took off-campus, including with American Ballet Theater and many great masters of modern dance such as Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham, and Paul Taylor. In 1963, she joined the Paul Taylor Company, but soon left to start her own company, Twyla Tharp Dance. She choreographed for this group and others, and for Broadway, film, and TV. Her company has toured the U.S. and the world to great acclaim.