Mark Morris
Mark William Morris is an American dancer, choreographer and director whose work is acclaimed for its craftsmanship, ingenuity, humor, and at times eclectic musical accompaniments. Morris is popular among dance aficionados, the music world, as well as mainstream audiences.

Early years

Morris grew up in Seattle, Washington, in a family that appreciated music and dance and nurtured his budding talents; his father taught him how to read music and his mother Maxine introduced him to flamenco
Flamenco is a genre of music and dance which has its foundation in Andalusian music and dance and in whose evolution Andalusian Gypsies played an important part....

, and ballet
Ballet is a type of performance dance, that originated in the Italian Renaissance courts of the 15th century, and which was further developed in France and Russia as a concert dance form. The early portions preceded the invention of the proscenium stage and were presented in large chambers with...

. He studied as a young boy with Verla Flowers and Perry Brunson. At the age of 16, after graduating early from high school, he traveled to Spain where, at the time, he felt he was destined to be a Flamenco dancer. However, because of the Franco regime, among other things, he returned to the United States. He moved to New York City in 1976 and lived in a loft in Hoboken, New Jersey, with other artists who also performed in the city. In the early years of his career, he performed with the companies of Hannah Kahn, Laura Dean
Laura Dean
Laura Dean is a dancer, choreographer and composer.Dean is the recipient of many awards including the 2008 Samuel H. Scripps American Dance Festival Award for Lifetime Achievement in Dance. She has also received a "Bessie" New York Dance Award for her work with composer Steve Reich...

, and Eliot Feld.


On November 28, 1980, he got together a group of his friends and put on a concert of his own choreography and called them the Mark Morris Dance Group. For the first several years, the company gave just two annual performances - at On the Boards
On the Boards
On the Boards is a non-profit contemporary performing arts organization in Seattle, Washington, founded in 1978. Originally located at Washington Hall in the Central District, the organization moved in 1998 to their current location in Lower Queen Anne...

 in Seattle, Washington, and at Dance Theater Workshop
Dance Theater Workshop
Dance Theater Workshop, colloquially known as DTW, is a New York City performance space and service organization for dance companies. Located as 219 West 19th Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, DTW was founded in 1965 by Jeff Duncan, Art Bauman and...

 in New York. In 1986, the company was featured on the nationally televised Great Performances - Dance in America series on PBS.

In 1988, he was approached by Gerard Mortier, then the head of the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels. Mortier needed a replacement when Maurice Béjart
Maurice Béjart
Maurice Béjart was a French born, Swiss choreographer who ran the Béjart Ballet Lausanne in Switzerland. He was the son of the French philosopher Gaston Berger.- Biography :...

, who had held the position of Director of Dance for over 20 years, suddenly left and took his company with him. After seeing the Mark Morris Dance Group give one performance, Mortier offered Morris the position. His company, from 1988 to 1991, became the Monnaie Dance Group Mark Morris, the resident company at La Monnaie
La Monnaie
Le Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie , or the Koninklijke Muntschouwburg is a theatre in Brussels, Belgium....

 where Morris was given well-equipped offices and studios; full health insurance for him, his staff and dancers; an orchestra and chorus at his disposal; and one of the great stages of Europe on which to dance.

In 1990, Morris and Mikhail Baryshnikov
Mikhail Baryshnikov
Mikhail Nikolaevich Baryshnikov is a Soviet and American dancer, choreographer, and actor, often cited alongside Vaslav Nijinsky and Rudolf Nureyev as one of the greatest ballet dancers of the 20th century. After a promising start in the Kirov Ballet in Leningrad, he defected to Canada in 1974...

 established the White Oak Dance Project
White Oak Dance Project
The White Oak Dance Project was a dance company founded in 1990 by Mikhail Baryshnikov and Mark Morris to be the touring arm of the Baryshnikov Dance Foundation....

. He continued to create works for this company until 1995.

He is much in demand as a ballet choreographer, most notably with San Francisco Ballet
San Francisco Ballet
The San Francisco Ballet is a ballet company, founded in 1933 as the San Francisco Opera Ballet. The company is currently based in the War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco, under the direction of Helgi Tomasson. SFB is the first professional ballet company in the United States...

, for which he has created seven works. He has also received commissions from such companies as American Ballet Theatre
American Ballet Theatre
American Ballet Theatre , based in New York City, was one of the foremost ballet companies of the 20th century. It continues as a leading dance company in the world today...

, Boston Ballet
Boston Ballet
Boston Ballet, founded in 1963 by E. Virginia Williams, was the first professional repertory ballet company in New England. Boston Ballet’s national and international reputation developed under the leadership of Artistic Directors Violette Verdy , Bruce Marks , and Anna-Marie Holmes...

, and the Paris Opera Ballet
Paris Opera Ballet
The Paris Opera Ballet is the oldest national ballet company in the world, and many European and international ballet companies can trace their origins to it...

. He has worked extensively in opera, directing and choreographing productions for the Metropolitan Opera, the New York City Opera
New York City Opera
The New York City Opera is an American opera company located in New York City.The company, called "the people's opera" by New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, was founded in 1943 with the aim of making opera financially accessible to a wide audience, producing an innovative choice of repertory, and...

, English National Opera
English National Opera
English National Opera is an opera company based in London, resident at the London Coliseum in St. Martin's Lane. It is one of the two principal opera companies in London, along with the Royal Opera, Covent Garden...

, and the Royal Opera House
Royal Opera House
The Royal Opera House is an opera house and major performing arts venue in Covent Garden, central London. The large building is often referred to as simply "Covent Garden", after a previous use of the site of the opera house's original construction in 1732. It is the home of The Royal Opera, The...

, Covent Garden
Covent Garden
Covent Garden is a district in London on the eastern fringes of the West End, between St. Martin's Lane and Drury Lane. It is associated with the former fruit and vegetable market in the central square, now a popular shopping and tourist site, and the Royal Opera House, which is also known as...

, among others. He directed and choreographed King Arthur
King Arthur (opera)
King Arthur or, The British Worthy , is a semi-opera in five acts with music by Henry Purcell and alibretto by John Dryden. It was first performed at the Queen's Theatre, Dorset Garden, London, in late May or early June 1691....

 for English National Opera
English National Opera
English National Opera is an opera company based in London, resident at the London Coliseum in St. Martin's Lane. It is one of the two principal opera companies in London, along with the Royal Opera, Covent Garden...

 in June, 2006, and in May 2007 he directed and choreographed Orfeo ed Euridice
Orfeo ed Euridice
Orfeo ed Euridice is an opera composed by Christoph Willibald Gluck based on the myth of Orpheus, set to a libretto by Ranieri de' Calzabigi. It belongs to the genre of the azione teatrale, meaning an opera on a mythological subject with choruses and dancing...

for the Metropolitan Opera. He is the recipient of 11 honorary doctorates.

Notable works by Mark Morris include Gloria (1981), set to Vivaldi; Championship Wrestling (1985), based on an essay by Roland Barthes
Roland Barthes
Roland Gérard Barthes was a French literary theorist, philosopher, critic, and semiotician. Barthes' ideas explored a diverse range of fields and he influenced the development of schools of theory including structuralism, semiotics, existentialism, social theory, Marxism, anthropology and...

; L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato is a pastoral ode by George Frideric Handel based on the poetry of John Milton.-History:Handel composed the work over the period of 19 January to 4 February 1740, and the work was premiered on 27 February 1740 at the Royal Theatre of Lincoln's Inn Fields...

(1988); Dido and Æneas (1989); The Hard Nut (1991), his version of The Nutcracker
The Nutcracker
The Nutcracker is a two-act ballet, originally choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov with a score by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The libretto is adapted from E.T.A. Hoffmann's story "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King". It was given its première at the Mariinsky Theatre in St...

set in the 1970s; The Office (1995); Greek to Me (2000); a dance version of the Virgil Thomson
Virgil Thomson
Virgil Thomson was an American composer and critic. He was instrumental in the development of the "American Sound" in classical music...

Gertrude Stein
Gertrude Stein
Gertrude Stein was an American writer, poet and art collector who spent most of her life in France.-Early life:...

 opera Four Saints in Three Acts
Four Saints in Three Acts
Four Saints in Three Acts is an opera by American composer Virgil Thomson with a libretto by Gertrude Stein. Written in 1927-8, it contains about 20 saints, and is in at least four acts...

(2001); the ballet A Garden (2001); Grand Duo (1993); V (2002) and All Fours (2004). In 2006, he premiered his Mozart Dances, commissioned by the New Crowned Hope Festival and Mostly Mozart Festival in conjunction with the 250th anniversary of the birth of Mozart; and in 2008, his controversial Romeo & Juliet, On Motifs of Shakespeare, set to Prokofiev's recently discovered, original scenario and score, had its premiere. In 2011, he premiered the 150th work of his professional career, Festival Dance, to critical acclaim during sold out performances at his dance center in Brooklyn, NY.

Morris and his Dance Group collaborated with cellist Yo-Yo Ma
Yo-Yo Ma
Yo-Yo Ma is an American cellist, virtuoso, and orchestral composer. He has received multiple Grammy Awards, the National Medal of Arts in 2001 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011...

 in Falling Down Stairs, a film by Barbara Willis Sweete available on Ma's Inspired by Bach
Inspired by Bach
Inspired by Bach, a Sony Classical and Rhombus Media production as part of Sony Classical celebrates Bach series, presents contemporary cellist Yo-Yo Ma performing the six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello by Johann Sebastian Bach in collaboration with artists from different disciplines, in a set of...

series, volume 2. In casu, Morris choreographed a dance based on Bach's Third Suite for Unaccompanied Cello, which Ma performs. Sweete's film depicts the performance as well as the evolution of the dance. Morris has also collaborated with visual artists such as Isaac Mizrahi
Isaac Mizrahi
Isaac Mizrahi is an American TV presenter, fashion designer, and was the creative director of Liz Claiborne. He is best known for his eponymous fashion lines.-Early life:...

, Howard Hodgkin
Howard Hodgkin
Sir Gordon Howard Eliot Hodgkin CH, CBE is a British painter and printmaker. His work is most often associated with abstraction.-Early life:...

, Charles Burns
Charles Burns
Charles Burns may refer to:* Charles Burns , American cartoonist and illustrator* Mr. Burns, full name Charles Montgomery Burns, fictional character from the American animated sitcom The Simpsons...

 and Stephen Hendee.

In 2001 his company moved into its first permanent headquarters in the United States, the Mark Morris Dance Center
Mark Morris Dance Center
The MARK MORRIS DANCE CENTER is located in the Fort Greene neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY, at 3 Lafayette Avenue, on the corner of Flatbush Avenue. It is the permanent home of the international touring modern dance company, the Mark Morris Dance Group...

, in Brooklyn
Brooklyn is the most populous of New York City's five boroughs, with nearly 2.6 million residents, and the second-largest in area. Since 1896, Brooklyn has had the same boundaries as Kings County, which is now the most populous county in New York State and the second-most densely populated...

, located at 3 Lafayette Avenue in the Fort Greene neighborhood. 2001 also marked the establishment of The School at the Mark Morris Dance Center. In addition to being the home of the Mark Morris Dance Group, the Center houses rehearsal space for the dance community, outreach programs for local children, and a school offering dance classes to students of all ages.

Morris is the subject of a biography, Mark Morris (1993), by dance critic Joan Acocella
Joan Acocella
Joan B. Acocella is an American journalist who is the dance and book critic for The New Yorker. She has written several books on dance, literature, and psychology....

. In 2001, Morris published L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato: A Celebration, a volume of photographs and critical essays.

Though now largely retired from performing, Mark Morris was long noted for the musicality and power of his dancing as well as his amazing delicacy of movement. His body was heavier than the typical dancer, more like that of an average person, yet his technical and expressive abilities outstripped those of most of his contemporaries.

Honors and Awards

  • 11 Honorary Doctorates (Cornish School of the Arts, 2011; Roehampton University, 2010; Centenary College, 2009; Bard College, 2006; Bates College, 2006; George Mason University, 2005; Bowdoin College, 2003; Pratt Institute, 2003; Long Island University, 2002; The Juilliard School, 2001; Boston Conservatory of Music, 1994)
  • Leonard Bernstein Lifetime Achievement Award for the Elevation of Music in Society, 2010
  • American Philosophical Society, Member, 2008
  • The Independent Award, Brown University Club of New York, 2007
  • Samuel H. Scripps American Dance Festival Lifetime Achievement Award, 2007
  • WQXR Gramophone Special Recognition Award, 2006
  • New York City Mayor's Award for Arts & Culture, 2006
  • American Academy of Arts & Sciences, Fellow, 2005
  • Laurence Olivier Award (UK), Outstanding Achievement in Dance, 2002
  • Critics' Circle National Dance Award (UK), Best Modern Choreography, 2002
  • Critics' Circle National Dance Award (UK), Best Foreign Dance Company, 2002
  • Time Out Live Awards (UK), Outstanding Production (V), 2002
  • County of Los Angeles Distinguished Artist Award, 2001
  • New York State Governor's Arts Award, 2001
  • Best of Boston, Mark Morris & Yo-Yo Ma
    Yo-Yo Ma
    Yo-Yo Ma is an American cellist, virtuoso, and orchestral composer. He has received multiple Grammy Awards, the National Medal of Arts in 2001 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011...

    , Best Duet, 1999
  • Laurence Olivier Award (UK), Best New Dance Production (L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato), 1998
  • Evening Standard Award (UK), 1997
  • Capezio Achievement Award, 1997
  • Scotsman/Hamada Trust Festival Prize, Edinburgh Festival, 1995
  • Edinburgh International Critics Award, 1994
  • Edinburgh International Critics Award, 1992
  • John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship, 1991
  • Dance Magazine Award, 1991
  • John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, 1986
  • New York Dance and Performance Award ("Bessie"), 1984, 1990, 2007
  • Numerous honors include Choreographic Fellowships from the New York and New Jersey State Councils on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Ballets by Mark Morris

Morris has created seven works for the San Francisco Ballet since 1994, including the first American production of Delibes Sylvia (ballet)
Sylvia (ballet)
Sylvia, originally Sylvia, ou La nymphe de Diane, is a full-length ballet in two or three acts, first choreographed by Louis Mérante to music by Léo Delibes in 1876. Sylvia is a typical classical ballet in many respects, yet it has many interesting features which make it unique...

; three works for American Ballet Theatre including Gong with music by Colin McPhee and Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes with music by Virgil Thomson; and has also received commissions from The Joffrey Ballet and the Boston Ballet, among others. In 2009, the San Francisco Ballet toasted 15 years of brilliant collaborations with Mark Morris by presenting the first All-Morris program, performing A Garden (2001), Joyride (2008) and Sandpaper Ballet (1999). His work is in the repertory of Ballet British Columbia, Ballet West, Boston Ballet, Dutch National Ballet, Houston Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet and The Washington Ballet. Morris' ballets have also been performed by English National Ballet, Grand Théâtre de Genève, The Royal Ballet, and The Royal New Zealand Ballet. They have been noted for making ballet more accessible to audiences that ordinarily find dance and specifically ballet too difficult to consume.

Ballet commissions

  • Mort Subite -- Boston Ballet (1986)
  • Esteemed Guests -- Joffrey Ballet (1986)
  • Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes -- American Ballet Theatre (1988)
  • Ein Herz -- Paris Opera Ballet (1990)
  • Paukenschlag -- Les Grands Ballets Canadiens (1992)
  • Maelstrom -- San Francisco Ballet (1994)
  • Quincunx -- Les Grands Ballets Canadiens (1995)
  • Pacific -- San Francisco Ballet (1995)
  • Sandpaper Ballet -- San Francisco Ballet (1999)
  • A Garden -- San Francisco Ballet (2001)
  • Gong -- American Ballet Theatre (2001)
  • Later -- San Francisco Ballet (2002)
  • Non Troppo -- American Ballet Theatre (2003)
  • Sylvia -- San Francisco Ballet (2004)
  • Up and Down -- Boston Ballet (2006)
  • Joyride -- San Francisco Ballet (2008)

Operas by Mark Morris

Mark Morris has worked extensively in opera for over 20 years, directing and choreographing productions for The Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, English National Opera, Seattle Opera, and The Royal Opera, Covent Garden, among others. In 2009, in honor of the bicentennial of Joseph Haydn
Joseph Haydn
Franz Joseph Haydn , known as Joseph Haydn , was an Austrian composer, one of the most prolific and prominent composers of the Classical period. He is often called the "Father of the Symphony" and "Father of the String Quartet" because of his important contributions to these forms...

's death, Gotham Chamber Opera presented the New York City stage premiere of Haydn's L'isola disabitata
L'isola disabitata
L'isola disabitata , Hob. 28/9, is an opera by Joseph Haydn, his tenth opera, written for the Eszterházy court and premiered December 6, 1779. The libretto by Pietro Metastasio was previously set by Giuseppe Bonno and subsequently used by Manuel García...

 (Desert Island), in a new production by Mark Morris at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College., rev.

Productions directed and/or choreographed

  • Salome -- Choreographer (Seattle Opera, 1986)
  • Nixon in China -- Choreographer (Houston Grand Opera, 1987)
  • Orphée et Euridice -- Choreographer (Seattle Opera, 1988)
  • Die Fledermaus -- Director (Seattle Opera, 1988)
  • Le nozze di Figaro (Act III wedding scene) -- Choreographer (PepsiCo Summerfare, 1988)
  • Dido and Aeneas -- Director and Choreographer (La Monnaie, 1989)
  • The Death of Klinghoffer -- Choreographer (La Monnaie, 1991)
  • Le nozze di Figaro -- Director (La Monnaie, 1991)
  • Orfeo ed Euridice -- Director and Choreographer (Handel & Haydn Society, 1996)
  • Platée -- Director and Choreographer (Royal Opera, 1997)
  • Four Saints in Three Acts -- Director and Choreographer (English National Opera, 2000)
  • Idomeneo (Act III ballet) -- Choreographer (Glyndebourne Festival Opera, 2003)
  • King Arthur -- Director and Choreographer (English National Opera, 2006)
  • Orfeo ed Euridice -- Director and Choreographer (The Metropolitan Opera, 2007)
  • L'isola d'isabitata -- Director (Gotham Chamber Opera, 2009)

In 2011, The Metropolitan Opera revived its 2007 production of Orfeo ed Euridice, directed by Mark Morris, and premiered John Adams' Nixon in China, choreographed by Mark Morris in 1987 but never before seen on a New York stage. The later was filmed and broadcast as part of The Met's Live in HD series with Peter Sellers directing.


In 2006, for the opening of MMDG's 25th anniversary New York season, the company performed Morris' much revered (1981, rev. 1984) set to Vivaldi's Gloria in D. Morris took up the baton for the first time to conduct the MMDG Music Ensemble and the Juilliard Choral Union. In 2007, he began conducting performances of his opera Dido and Aeneas
Dido and Aeneas
Dido and Aeneas is an opera in a prologue and three acts by the English Baroque composer Henry Purcell to a libretto by Nahum Tate. The first known performance was at Josias Priest's girls' school in London no later than the summer of 1688. The story is based on Book IV of Virgil's Aeneid...

 (1989). He has also led Emmanuel Music, the Seattle Symphony and the Tudor Choir in performance. In the summer of 2011, he lead the Brooklyn Philharmonic
Brooklyn Philharmonic
The Brooklyn Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra, commonly known as the Brooklyn Philharmonic, is an American orchestra based in the borough of Brooklyn, in New York City...

 and Brooklyn Interdenominational Choir in a collaboration with MMDG at the Prospect Park Bandshell, part of a Mark Morris Dance Group program presented by Celebrate Brooklyn! In September 2011, he conducted Dido again with MMDG, this time with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra is an orchestra based in San Francisco, which is dedicated to historically informed performance of Baroque, Classical and early Romantic music on original instruments. The Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra was founded in 1981 by harpsichordist, teacher and early music...

 and Chorale; mezzo Stephanie Blythe
Stephanie Blythe
Stephanie Blythe is an American mezzo-soprano opera singer.-Biography:Blythe graduated from Monticello High School in 1987 and the Crane School of Music at the State University of New York at Potsdam in 1992. She was the recipient of the prestigious Richard Tucker Award in 1999...

, singing both Dido and the Sorceress; and baritone Philip Cutlip as Aeneas.

External links

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