As direct, quirky and complex as Tharp herself: an illuminating self-portrayal of this important choreographer- dancer's struggle for artistic and personal growth. Born in Indiana, Tharp endured a traumatic move to California at age eight: Leaving behind her beloved extended family, she was plunged into a grinding schedule of art, music, and dance lessons that her driving mother believed might give the girl a Hollywood career. The rest of her life, Tharp says, has been an interplay between her complex feelings for her mother and her art. Those interested in the way that choreographic genius develops will be enlightened here. As a teenager, Tharp ruminated endlessly about movement: ``What would it feel like to twist the torso to the left and extend the leg to the right?''; ``I searched physical and emotional and musical motivations--all different, all valid.'' Tharp's choreographic career began with her move to N.Y.C. in the 60's: Goading Paul Taylor into firing her as a dancer, she was on her own. To Tharp, choreography was a must: ``I knew that until I took on the full responsibility for my art...I was only a tool, not a serious artist.'' Tharp imparts the full flavor of the city's 60's art scene during the time that she gradually developed a troupe of fiercely loyal performers. By 1975, she was running the only company in the country with enough work to pay its dancers 52 weeks a year. But the strain of being administrator, fund-raiser, and artist took its toll. Writing about the eventual disbanding of the company, her short-lived affiliation with ABT, work in Hollywood, and guest work with major international dance companies, Tharp pulls no punches: career flops, therapy, affairs, abortions, troubled marriages, and turbulent motherhood are all related without excuses. Tharp is the major female choreographer in the dance world now, and her articulate, honest voice describing how she reached this status offers a lesson in how an artist grows--and a riveting read.