Insight into choreographer, Mark Morris’ use of music revealed by Professor Stephanie Jordan

  • Monday, October 19, 2015

The first detailed study of the musical influences on Mark Morris, the respected American choreographer, is about to be published in print and online by one of the world’s leading scholars of his work.

Professor Stephanie Jordan from the University of Roehampton has just completed a seven year project studying Morris’ use of music in his work. Her book, entitled Mark Morris, Musician-Choreographer was launched at in New York City at the Center for Ballet and Arts on Tuesday. 

At the age of 24, Mark Morris founded the Mark Morris Dance Group which is considered one of the world’s leading dance companies. He has previously explained the influence of music on his work, saying: “As a dancer I’m a musician. As a choreographer I’m a musician.”

Professor Jordan’s research provides a ‘choreomusical’ (audio-visual) framework for understanding the interaction between seeing and hearing to enable others to think about dance and music in new ways. 

She has taken the innovative step of also working in partnership with the Mark Morris Dance Group who will host webpages on the Mark Morris Dance Group’s website to provide video content to aid people’s understanding. Across the book and website, she reveals ground-breaking insight into the 200 works, ballets, operas and other ensembles that Morris has produced and includes his own commentary alongside dancers, musicians, his management and technical personnel.

Professor Jordan said: “Mark Morris is one of the most recognised for his use of music and values. His collaboration with world-famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma, for instance, is respected and his work raises fundamental questions about how music affects our understanding of dance and the interaction between seeing and hearing. 

“His commitment to live music in dance is a rare priority for a modern dance company anywhere. He has been hugely inspiring and intriguing to interview because he enables others to discuss the meaning around his dance without revealing his own reasoning behind the meaning. I have provided a conceptual framework which I hope to inspire working choreographers today in their own approaches to music and creative processes.”

Stephanie Jordan received a Leverhulme Research Fellowship and British Academy/Leverhulme Small Grant to support this research. She has trained academically and professionally as a dancer and musician developing an international reputation. At Roehampton her teaching includes supervising research students and contributes to the history and analysis courses within the MA dance programmes.