Tharp was born in Croydon, south London, to English mother Pamela Tharp and Nigerian father Gabriel Oluwole Esuruoso (1934-2013). His father, who had been a journalist for the Daily Times in Nigeria, came to England in the late 1950s to study veterinary medicine at the University of Glasgow, supported by a government scholarship; he became the first African holder of a Doctorate in Immunology, from the University of Birmingham. In 1964, Gabriel Esuruoso returned to Nigeria with his wife, Victoria Wuraola Emmanuel, and their three children, to work as a government veterinary officer; he subsequently became a professor in the Department of Veterinary Public Health and Preventive Medicine, and Dean of Veterinary Medicine, at the University of Ibadan.
Tharp attended The Perse School, Cambridge College of Arts and Technology, and trained at London Contemporary Dance School receiving a BA Hons (1st class) in Contemporary Dance in 1987. His 25-year performing career included working with London Contemporary Dance Theatre (1981–94) and Arc Dance Company (1994–2005). He has worked as a choreographer, teacher and director and as Lead Artist & Artistic Advisor for The Royal Ballet School’s Dance Partnership & Access Programme and Assistant to the Head of Contemporary Dance at Millennium Dance 2000. With composer Simon Redfern he co-founded Artyfartyarts, a multi-disciplinary arts group, and he is on the board of trustees at the Royal Opera House.
Awards and recognition
- "Tharp, Kenneth Olumuyiwa". Who's Who and Who was who. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2017. Retrieved 7 April 2017.
- "Gabriel Oluwole Esuruoso". The University of Glasgow Story. University of Glasgow. Retrieved 18 January 2023.
- Fellows Profile Clore Leadership Programme
- "Tharp appointed chief exec of The Place", The Stage, 12 June 2007.
- "Kenneth Olumuyiwa Tharp OBE to stand down as Chief Executive of The Place". www.theplace.org.uk. 8 September 2016. Retrieved 7 April 2017.
- Georgia Snow, "Kenneth Tharp steps down from the Place after nine years", The Stage, 8 September 2016.
- "Kenneth Olumuyiwa Tharp CBE Appointed As Our New Director", Africa Centre.
- Giverny Masso, "Kenneth Olumuyiwa Tharp named director of the Africa Centre in London", The Stage, 10 May 2018.
- "Kenneth Tharp Announced As New Director Of The Africa Centre", The Voice, 10 May 2018.
- "No. 61962". The London Gazette (Supplement). 17 June 2017. p. B10.
- "Her Majesty The Queen’s Birthday honours list 2017", One Dance UK, 16 June 2017.
- "The Progress 1000: London's most influential people 2015 - Dance", Evening Standard, 16 September 2017.
- "Kenneth Tharp Chief Executive of The Place announced as one of London's 1000 Most Influential People", The Place, 17 September 2015.
- "In Conversation - Kenneth Tharp and Robert Cohan". YouTube, 13 May 2013.