Mark Morris Dance Group Celebrates 40th Anniversary Online

The Mark Morris Dance Group will celebrate its 40th anniversary with a digital season, the first since the coronavirus shutdown. Not that the company has been absent from the digital world. In May, it released four new dances by Mr. Morris, the company’s artistic director, performed using Zoom, and streamed archival material.

But Mr. Morris has been deliberate about online content, focusing on creating works for screen viewing. “I didn’t want to do the immediate ‘get this out asap so people know we’re still here,” “Morris said in an interview. “I waited until I thought I had something decent, which was ‘Lonely Waltz’.”

This piece, one of four released in the spring, convinced Morris to continue creating works for online audiences. For the coming season, he made four new dance videos in collaboration with Colin Fowler.

Two of the new pieces, which will premiere on November 12, are based on pre-existing choreography, “Empire Garden” and “Layla and Majnun,” which has been re-staged for digital presentation. The others are completely unpublished and on “Clair de Lune” by Claude Debussy and a selection of “Studies for piano player” by Conlon Nancarrow. Members of the audience will have the opportunity to ask questions of Mr. Morris during the event.

The season kicks off tonight, with a new installment in the archival series, Dance On! Video safe. Recordings of performances at the Dance Theater Workshop (now known as New York Live Arts) will be available on request from October 28 to November 27. A holiday lineup built around “The Hard Nut,” Mr. Morris’ response to “The Nutcracker, will follow in December. In February, the focus will be on another Morris classic: “Dido and Aeneas”, on the opera by Henry Purcell.

Like many other performing arts groups in New York City, the Morris Company hopes to pivot rehearsals and in-person performances in 2021. The dancers are expected to return to the studio early next year, and in March, performances of solos, duets and quartets from the beginning of the troupe’s history, as well as a new work by M. Morris (set to selections from Seize Waltzes Op. 39 by Johannes Brahms), is scheduled to be broadcast live.

New dance videos will also be recorded once the company can reunite at its Brooklyn headquarters this winter. These pieces will be released in May to crown the season. Between the two, the April slate will revolve around “L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato” by M. Morris from 1988.

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