Praised as a refreshingly irreverent master, sometimes derided as a gimmicky smart-alec, Mark Morris has earned a reputation as one of the world's leading modern dance choreographers.
Critics have not always been sure what to make of Morris -- or whether to take him seriously. Morris has collaborated with classical star Yo-Yo Ma, as well as Baryshnikov. Morris' work is often grounded in classical forms. Morris says his choreography develops from the score, and his works are set to everything from Bach and Handel to country-western's Louvin Brothers and rock's Violent Femmes. He discusses his artistry with PBS NewsHour correspondent Jeff Brown.
REHEARSAL CLIP: Mark Morris leads and critiques his company in a rehearsal of several dance routines. Watch this exclusive behind the scenes footage of the rehearsal session.
When Mark Morris (born in 1956) was still in his twenties, he leapt into world fame. A loudmouth of exceptional verbal wit, he soon became popular as a highly quotable personality, a dancer of extraordinary power, an intricate craftsman and an unpredictably imaginative theater artist.
By the end of the 1980s, it was standard practice to speak of Morris as one of the great living choreographers of American modern dance; and to recognize a number of his works as classics. His "Gloria" (1981), "New Love Song Waltzes" (1982), "One Charming Night" (1985), "L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato" (1988), and "Dido and Aeneas" (1989) are works that abound in pure dance and in meanings at the same time.
His company, the Mark Morris Dance Group purchased a site in Brooklyn, New York, in 1998 that in subsequent years has become the company's home. "The Hard Nut" (1990) -- his 1960s American love-story version of "The Nutcracker", has become another staple of the repertory. Such shorter works as "Grand Duo" (1993), "The Office" (1994), and "All Fours" (2004) have taken aspects of his dance theater further.
Though he has indubitably made fewer classics in recent years, he remains startlingly prolific. His premieres in 2008 include "Joyride" for the San Francisco Ballet, a new dance for his own company to Samuel Barber's "Excursions," and his take on "Romeo and Juliet," choreographed to the newly-discovered version of Prokoviev's ballet score. And any Mark Morris premiere is news.
Acclaimed choreographer Mark Morris speculates why the general public is afraid of two simple words: modern dance. "Very often people think that they don't know how to watch it, or they're bullied into thinking that it's over their heads," says Morris, who believes that truly great art always engages the audience.