In its ongoing efforts to engage audiences through online programming while theaters remain closed, the Mark Morris Dance Group (MMDG) will be showing full-length works by Mark Morris this summer. Dance on! Video Vault: Curated Collections from the Mark Morris Dance Group Archive is a
series of archival collections that offer a rare chance to rediscover the dances of MMDG’s early years with introductions moderated by Morris himself.
To date Morris has choreographed 185 works, some of which have only been performed a handful of times, or for which there are only one or two performances on video. Through this series, MMDG highlights works that are less well-known and much less shown than some of the Dance Group’s most iconic dances.
Each month this summer, MMDG will release a different collection of integral works from its archives selected by archivist Stephanie Neel.
Released on June 23, the first collection, The Early Years, will be available on demand until July 19 and includes three dances from the 1980s: Dad’s Charts, Canonic ¾ Studies and Strict Songs. Each dance is prefaced by a video introduction by Mark Morris.
Dad’s Charts, the inaugural performance of the Mark Morris Dance Group, is a solo that Morris premiered at the Cunningham Dance Foundation in November 1980. Set on the recording of “Robbins’ Nest” by Illinois Jacquet, the dance is a structured improvisation in jazz referring to scenes from the life of Morris’s father: playing the keyboard, bowling, falling asleep in front of the TV.
Morris created Canonic ¾ Studies (1982) on the students of his summer workshop at On the Boards in Seattle. On an assortment of piano waltzes, the work focuses on the amplitude of movement in relation to time. The video included in this collection is of a performance from December 1983 at the Dance Theater Workshop.
Strict Songs (1987) marked the first of many collaborations between Morris and composer Lou Harrison. Morris choreographed this work to Harrison’s “Four Strict Songs” for ten dancers. It was created with the Pacific Northwest Chamber Ensemble and over 100 members of the Seattle Men’s Chorus. Performance in the collection is that of MMDG at the Brooklyn Academy of Music with the St. Luke’s Orchestra and the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus in May 1988.
Subsequent collections, available on request on July 20 and August 24 respectively, include The Brussels Years, 1988-1991 and Solo Works, 1980-1989.
The recordings of these performances were digitized between 2017 and 2020 with funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to preserve the works on paper and audiovisual media of the Mark Morris Dance Group.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, MMDG has canceled all in-person programs until further notice. Dance on! Video Vault is its latest digital offering, bringing together remotely created video dances, live and on-demand video lessons, performance clips, documentaries, interviews with Mark Morris and dancers, and behind-the-scenes reporting.
Dance on! Video Vault: Curated collections from the Mark Morris Dance Group Archives, On-Demand monthly archival collections of lesser-known works by Mark Morris, starting with The Early Years Collection through July 19, 2020 at the address https://markmorrisdancegroup.org/dance- sur-vidéo-vault /