Mark Morris / Edition 1

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Mark Morris emerged in the 1980s as America's most exciting young choreographer. Two decades later, his position remains unchallenged. Morris was born in Seattle in 1956. His Mark Morris Dance Group began performing in New York in 1980. By the mid-eighties, PBS had aired an hour-long special on him, and his work was being presented by America's foremost ballet companies. Morris's dances are a mix of traditionalism and radicalism. They unabashedly address the great themes—love, grief, loneliness, religion, community—yet they are also lighthearted, irreverent, and scabrous.

Joan Acocella's probing portrait is the first book on this brilliant and controversial artist. Written with Morris's cooperation, it describes how he has lived and how he turns life—and music and narrative—into dance. Including 78 photographs, Mark Morris provides an ideal introduction to the life and work of one of America's leading artists.

Only in his mid-thirties, Mark Morris has already made a name for himself in the world of dance as the most exciting and important new choreographer of our times. This part biography, part critical study describes how Morris turns life--music, narrative, and tradition--into dance. 40 photos.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This book is the first to seriously take stock of Morris, who is widely considered to be the leading modern dance choreographer of his generation. Born in Seattle, Wash., in 1956, Morris lived there, in the author's view, as a more or less contented iconoclast before heading for New York City in 1976 and dancing with several companies, then starting the Mark Morris Dance Group in 1980. Acocella devotes chapters to the preoccupations of his work, its themes (e.g., ``irony and sincerity'') and fundamental character, and others to the character of the choreographer himself as seen in the context of his career. One of the most absorbing chapters is largely narrative--``Brussels,'' telling of Morris's (``Mr. Outrageous'') difficult years from 1988 to 1991 in conservative Belgium, where he was splendidly set up in the Theatre Royal de la Monnaie as dance director. But Acocella is also an acute observer of the dances themselves, and goes beyond them to venture general thoughts on dancing that linger in the mind (``What makes most classical art interesting is not an achieved balance but a struggle for balance''). Photos not seen by PW. (Dec.)
Kirkus Reviews
Choreographer Mark Morris always elicits extreme reactions in audiences—but even those who hate, or are baffled by, his work can't deny that he's one of the most important creative figures in dance. Acocella (dance critic for New York's Daily News) has long championed Morris: here, by chronicling his early life and examining his works, she presents an extraordinary primer not only on how a choreographer develops but also on what dance can mean—and how it works. She also presents an infinitely more human, appealing Morris than is usually portrayed. Acocella has interviewed Morris, as well as his family, friends, dancers—and critics—at length. She describes the choreographer's Seattle childhood: a loving family; excellent early dance training; intense involvement in an extraordinary folk dancing group (Koleda). The author makes clear that the genius was always in Morris—and that, happily, he grew up in an environment in which it flourished. Through Acocella's examination of how Morris uses music and narrative line, and of the critical reaction (often violent) to him, we learn an immense amount—and not just about Morris. Readers will have their eyes opened by Acocella's jargon-free analysis—of how inner conflict, for instance, can fuel choreographic development: "Many first-class choreographers begin as superb dancers....But in certain respects this is an unlucky combination...the dancer-choreographer is likely to choose choreography over his or her dance, and then to resent the company...." Acocella looks at length at Morris's trial by fire in 1988 as the choreographer in residence at Belgium's state opera house; what comes across strongly isthe dancer's unwavering focus on his work. Acocella does both Morris and dance a great service here. By throwing a clear light on both the man and his gift, she endears Morris to us, allows us to respect him more, and gives us a greater understanding of both him and his art. (Forty-plus photos—not seen)
From Barnes & Noble
An arts writer with a specialty in dance, Joan Acocella has produced a startling biography of outspoken, controversial "bad boy" choreographer Mark Morris. Filled with glorious black-and-white photographs of many performances by Morris & his troupe.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780819567314
  • Publisher: Wesleyan University Press
  • Publication date: 11/30/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 305
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 9.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

JOAN ACOCELLA is the dance critic of The New Yorker. She lives in New York City.

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Table of Contents

Mark Morris Childhood A Company The Body Love and Sex Heaven and Hell The Story Music Irony and Sincerity Brussels The Hidden Soul of Harmony Chronology of Work by Mark Morris

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