For the past four decades, few names in dance have stirred up as much reaction as American choreographer Mark Morris. Unique for his outsize persona, superb musicality and taking on themes related to gender and sexuality, Morris is one of the most prolific and lauded choreographers of his generation. At his Brooklyn-based dance center, the former enfant terrible continues to create for his company, the Mark Morris Dance Group, and set work on ballet and modern companies worldwide.
Morris has choreographed close to 150 works for his company. In addition to being inspired by music, many have narrative roots in mythology and literature, including the following.
L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato (1988)
Widely considered Morris’ masterpiece, despite being created early in his career, L’Allegro offers a pastoral scene to the music of Handel and Milton’s sung poetry. Dancers frolic, skip and transform into bushes, hounds, trees, foxes and birds, forming and reforming intricate patterns and groupings.
Dido and Aeneas (1989)
Morris’ dance adaptation of the opera by Purcell is one of his most attention-grabbing works. He cast himself as Dido, the Queen of Carthage, who engages in an affair with Aeneas. The sexual undertones were controversial when the piece premiered, but the artistry of Dido and Aeneas has withstood the test of time.
The Hard Nut (1991)
For his version of The Nutcracker, Morris created a zany world where gender lines are blurred and hilarity ensues. Memorable scenes include a pas de deux between Drosselmeier and the Nutcracker, a snow flurry of crop top– and wig-wearing men and women, robot dolls at the Christmas party and a grand pas de deux danced by the entire cast.