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Mark Morris

(b. 1956)


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(b Seattle, 29 Aug. 1956)

US dancer, choreographer, and company director. He studied flamenco with Verla Flowers and ballet with Perry Brunson in Seattle; also studied flamenco in Madrid. While still a teenager he joined a semi-professional Balkan dance troupe, the Koleda Folk Ensemble, whose communal style exerted a profound influence on his later choreography. From 1976 he studied ballet with Maggie Black in New York. He danced with several companies in New York, including those of Eliot Feld, Lar Lubovitch, Hannah Kahn, and Laura Dean. In 1980 he founded his own New York-based troupe, the Mark Morris Dance Group, which is today one of the world's leading contemporary dance ensembles. In 1988 it became the resident company at the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels, with Morris appointed the Monnaie's ballet director, a post previously held by Béjart. During the next three years, using the generous resources of Belgium's national opera house, Morris produced work which confirmed his reputation; L'Allegro, il penseroso ed il moderato is ranked as one of the most significant modern dance works of the era. In 1991 the company returned to America. Morris has additionally worked as a guest choreographer with several ballet companies, including the Joffrey Ballet (Esteemed Guests, mus. C. P. E. Bach, 1986), American Ballet Theatre (Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes, mus. Virgil Thomson, 1988, and Gong, mus. McPhee, 2001), Paris Opera Ballet (Ein Herz, mus. J. S. Bach, 1990), the Boston Ballet (Mort subite, mus. Poulenc, 1986), Les Grands Ballets Canadiens (Paukenschlag, mus. Haydn, 1992, and Quincunx, mus. Donizetti, 1995), and San Francisco Ballet (Maelstrom, mus. Beethoven, 1994, Pacific, mus. Harrison, 1995, Sandpaper Ballet, mus. Leroy Anderson, 1999, and Sylvia, mus. Delibes, 2004), among others. An intensely musical choreographer, his style has embraced a wide range, utilizing the simple everyday movements of folk dance as well as the sophisticated articulation and pointe work of classical dance. He has also made a point of treating men and women as equals in choreographic terms. His works display an affection for kitsch just as effectively as an analytic love of formal structure, while his approach can veer from the primal power of a work like Grand Duo to the unabashed sentimentality of a work like New Love Song Waltzes, from the ecstasy of Gloria to the irreverence of The Hard Nut, his 1991 Brussels staging of The Nutcracker. Although Morris has a particular fondness for music of the Baroque period, he is equally comfortable with both contemporary and popular music. Dancing in his own works his large and bulky frame exhibited a surprising grace, while his performance style combined innocence with sophistication. In 1990 he co-founded the White Oak Dance Project with Baryshnikov. A list of works for his own company includes Castor and Pollux (mus. Partch, 1980), Ten Suggestions (mus. Tcherepnin, 1981), Gloria (mus. Vivaldi, 1981), New Love Song Waltzes (mus. Brahms, 1982), Celestial Greetings (mus. popular Thai, 1983), Dogtown (mus. Yoko Ono, 1983), O Rangasayee (mus. Tyagaraja, 1984), Slugfest (no music, 1984), One Charming Night (mus. Purcell, 1985), Mythologies (mus. Garfein, 1986), Stabat Mater (mus. Pergolesi, 1986), Strict Songs (mus. Harrison, 1987), Scarlatti Solos (mus. Scarlatti, 1987), Offertorium (mus. Schubert, 1988), L'Allegro, il penseroso ed il moderato (mus. Handel, 1988), Dido and Aeneas (mus. Purcell, 1989), Love Song Waltzes (mus. Brahms, 1989), Wonderland (mus. Schoenberg, 1989), Behemoth (no mus., 1990), Going Away Party (mus. Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys, 1990), The Hard Nut (mus. Tchaikovsky, 1991), Beautiful Day (mus. Georg-Melchior Hoffmann, but attrib. Bach, 1992), Bedtime (mus. Schubert, 1992), Three Preludes (mus. Gershwin, 1992), Grand Duo (mus. Harrison, 1993), Mosaic and United (mus. Cowell, 1993), The Office (mus. Dvořák, 1994), Somebody's Coming to See Me Tonight (mus. Stephen Foster, 1995), World Power (mus. Harrison, 1995), I Don't Want To Love (mus. Monteverdi, 1996), Rhymes With Silver (mus. Harrison, 1997), Dancing Honeymoon (mus. various, 1998), The Argument (mus. Schumann, 1999), V (mus. Schumann, 2002), Mozart Dances (2006), a new version of Romeo and Juliet (2008) using Prokofiev's original score (with its happy ending), and Empire Garden (mus. Ives, 2009). For White Oak he choreographed Motorcade (mus. Saint-Saëns, 1990), A Lake (mus. Haydn, 1991), and Three Russian Preludes (mus. Shostakovich, 1995). He also worked extensively in opera, choreographing John Adams's Nixon in China (Houston Grand Opera, 1987) and The Death of Klinghoffer (Brussels, 1991) as well as choreographing and directing Rameau's Platée (Royal Opera, 1997), Thomson's Four Saints in Three Acts (English National Opera, 2000), Purcell's King Arthur (English National Opera, 2002), and Orfeo ed Euridice (Metropolitan Opera, 2007), among others. In 1997 he made his Broadway debut, directing and choreographing the Paul Simon musical Capeman. In 2001 his company moved to a new base in Brooklyn, NY, also launching the Mark Morris School.

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Subjects: Dance.


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