Press Room

Monday October 03, 2016

Mark Morris’ ‘Layla and Majnun’ premiere an excess of riches

Cal Performances sponsored a few events last month, but for many, the season opened at Zellerbach Hall Friday, Sept. 30, with the world premiere of “Layla and Majnun,” Mark Morris’ choreographed retelling of a classic Persian legend, set to exquisite Azerbaijani music by early 20th century composer Uzeyir Hajibeyli. Members of the remarkable Silk Road Ensemble and two great vocalists in the mugham style, Fargana Qasimova and Alim Qasimov, performed the arranged score, and they presented a problem by dividing our attention.

Monday October 03, 2016

Mark Morris and Silk Road Delight with Layla and Majnun

Layla and Majnun, choreographer Mark Morris’s 13th work to have its world premiere at Cal Performances, is a delight. The piece, slightly over an hour long, combines — with concision, precision, heart and brio — all the qualities that are best in Morris’ aesthetic.

Monday October 03, 2016

"Layla and Majnun" Mark Morris Dance Company Cal Performances Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley

The sixty-minute work is based on the 1908 opera by Azerbaijani composerUzeyir Hajibeyli, available on YouTube. You can’t miss its grand opera gestures which Qasimov, Johnny Gandelsman and Colin Jacobson, however, condensed into an exquisitely focused version which retained the integrated perspective of western and Azerbaijani music. The original version's chorus and additional singers are here carried by Morris always strong dancers. Sung in the original language, super titles helped our understanding but also gave an inkling of the lush poetry and a quasi-transcendental concept of human love. Curious was the idea that love and suffering are inextricably connected; the very concept of passion, apparently, is painful.

Monday October 03, 2016

Mark Morris dancers, Silk Road Ensemble join in classic love story

Few stories capture the hearts of people all over the world as reliably as one about ill-starred lovers. No matter that we all know the outcome of “Romeo and Juliet” — their plight perennially moves us. Another of the world’s great love stories, “Layla and Majnun,” dates back long before Shakespeare. Its most famous literary expression, a verse romance by the Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi, has been casting its spell over Middle Eastern and Asian audiences for nearly a millennium.

Sunday October 02, 2016

A fiery Layla and Majnun première by the Silk Road Ensemble and Mark Morris Dance Group

Across the open and darkened stage the lights of small lamps flicker. At the back of the stage stretches an eight-foot-wide platform, and from that platform run two more ‘runways’ at a lower level. The stepped platforms fashion a squared-off C-shape pushed against the outer edges of the stage. In the center of the C is a shorter platform, with just enough room for two people to sit crosslegged, facing the audience, and sing.

Sunday October 02, 2016

Review: From Mark Morris, a Tale of Love Refracted and Multiplied

BERKELEY, Calif. — “My soul is on fire because we are apart. My only wish is to perish in the world of love. My true love knows every sliver of sorrow in my heart.” “Dear God, let me feel even more despair for my love.” “The true purpose of love is sacrificing oneself.” These lines, capturing various archetypal facets of Romantic love and anguish, come from the libretto of “Layla and Majnun.” The story, known from the fifth century onward in oral versions, reached its first definitive form in the Persian romance of Nezami Ganjawi (1141-1209).

Sunday October 02, 2016

Mark Morris Dance Group – Layla and Majnun – San Francisco

A friend said to me the other day, “People go to see Mark Morris for the music.” We were discussing the upcoming world premiere of Mark Morris Dance Group’s Layla and Majnun, and why she, a dancer, wouldn’t be seeing it. The truth is not as unequivocal as that – clearly, Morris’ choreography has as many adherents as his exquisite taste in music and musical collaborators. But judging by the applause at Zellerbach Hall, where Layla and Majnun opened on Friday, 30 September, people really were there for the music. At the curtain call, they clapped respectfully for the fifteen dancers, huzzahed for the Silk Road Ensemble and stood up and cheered for the two vocalists, Azerbaijani father-daughter mugham singers Alim Qasimov and Fargana Qasimova. It was a fair assessment of the 50-minute work, for which the music was exquisite but the slight choreography was tastefully decorative when not cloyingly frilly.

Saturday October 01, 2016

Mark Morris and Silk Road Ensemble’s collaboration

If you peek online at the Mark Morris Dance Group rehearsing Morris’s choreography for a new cross-cultural variant of the 1908 opera “Layla and Majnun,” you see movement that is clean and distilled, marking space in elegant circles and lines. But on stage Friday at Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall, where the company joined members of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble in performing the world premiere of this renowned opera of the East, a cross-cultural traffic jam occurred.

Saturday October 01, 2016

Morris premiere an excess of riches

Inevitably, as the 65-minute work progresses, you find yourself immersed in something organic and wonderful.

Thursday September 15, 2016

Crazy Love: Cal Performances Brings Arabia’s Iconic Love Story to the West

This September, the tale will come to life in an ambitious operatic production commissioned by Cal Performances and at least ten other organizations, including the Lincoln Center and the Kennedy Center. The artists who have come together to build the opera form the ultimate dream team: It includes world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble arranging and performing the music, choreography by Mark Morris and the Mark Morris Dance Group, lighting designs by James F. Ingalls, and set designs and costumes by the British painter Sir Gordon Howard Hodgkin. This is the first time an adaptation of Layla and Majnun is being presented in the Western Hemisphere on this scale.

Wednesday September 14, 2016

Welcome Back, Performing Arts Season

It may be human to err, but it's also human to get things very right. That is, to pour devotion and diligence into a chosen endeavor until it is as close to perfect as possible. Just weeks ago in Rio de Janeiro, the world watched, mesmerized, as a multitude of athletes performed stunning physical feats. In the coming months and much closer to home, other types of performers — musicians, dancers, thespians, acrobats, comedians — will share their own varieties of near-perfection on smaller stages. And the rest of us will watch. Hey, performing arts season: Welcome back!

Friday September 09, 2016

At the Silk Road Bazaar, Layla and Majnun Has Pride of Place

“It just does really have a lot of different worlds,” says violinist Colin Jacobsen about Layla and Majnun, the sui generis work which he’ll accompany, as part of the Silk Road Ensemble, at Zellerbach Hall at the end of the month. And he’s referring to different kinds of worlds. And it's their first full-length, choreographed and costumed collaboration, with the Mark Morris Dance Group providing motion and color.

Wednesday September 07, 2016

Escape the Distractions and See these Ten Dance Events

Fall is upon us and we’re desperately trying to dodge the howling sirocco of the presidential election campaign. Seeking new distractions now that the throbbing beat of samba, bossa nova and funk from Rio is a distant echo, now that the glorious sight of athletes flying through the air and synchronously swimming is a distant memory. Stop trying to parse the rapping Chihuahua, the naked woman swimming in a fish tank, and the unnerving sight of Frank Ocean self-immolating in Blond/Blonde.

Wednesday August 31, 2016

Performances Onstage This Fall

The eighth of Mark Morris’ full-evening entertainments, Layla and Majnun is one of the more intriguing. Thanks to cellist Yo-Yo Ma and his Silk Road Ensemble and Azerbaijani vocalists Alim Qasimov and Fargana Qasimova, the Brooklyn-based choreographer became fascinated with this tragic tale of thwarted love.

Wednesday August 31, 2016

Coming up this fall — arts, authors, visual expression

The Berkeley campus is perennially a hub of artistic performances, exhibits and readings in the Bay Area, and this semester is no exception. From a world premiere by Mark Morris to theater inspired by student veterans to readings by bestselling authors, the arts are thriving at Berkeley.

Tuesday August 30, 2016

Mark Morris Dance Group – Mozart Dances: Eleven, Double, Twenty-seven

It’s difficult to think of a better way to bid farewell to a New York summer than with Lincoln Center’s “Mostly Mozart” festival, and seeing Mark Morris Dance Group performing Mozart Dances was the icing on the cake. From the sound of them, you’d never know the three works Morris chose were written in the last decade of the composer’s short life. Performed by Garrick Ohlsson with the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra under the baton of Louis Langrée, Mozart’s piano concertos (11 and 23) and double piano sonata (Ohlsson was joined by pianist Inon Barnatan) collectively sounded light, sprightly and enchantingly melodic on Wednesday night’s performance.

Monday August 29, 2016

Morning Glories: Mark Morris

Every weekday at 10 a.m., the hosts at Classical MPR play a standout work based on the theme for the week. We call them Morning Glories.

Monday August 29, 2016

More Picks in Dance

A refresher on the backstory: Choreographer Mark Morris grew up in Seattle and began dancing here before leaving for a spectacular dance career in New York. (An early work was at On the Boards, way back when OtB was resident at Washington Hall.)

Sunday August 28, 2016

Fall arts preview

Mark Morris Dance Group will perform Layla and Majnun (Sept. 30–Oct. 2), based on the Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi’s story of forbidden love and accompanied by the musical virtuosity of The Silk Road Ensemble.

Sunday August 28, 2016

Berkeley Forum announces fall 2016 speaker lineup

The Berkeley Forum, a student-run organization that hosts prominent speaking events on campus, announced its fall semester lineup Sunday night. Berkeley Forum President Daniel Ahrens said the lineup this semester is its most expansive yet. It will include tech entrepreneurs, journalists, advocates and artists.

Friday August 26, 2016

VIDEO: Derek Jacobi in Napa, Mark Morris in Berkeley and More

Friday, Sep. 30 – Sunday, Oct. 2: Cal Performances. Mark Morris Dance Group and The Silk Road Ensemble present Layla and Majnun at Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley An A-List team of creators including choreographer Mark Morris and his dance company, painter Howard Hodgkin, Azerbaijani superstar singers Alim Qasimov and Fargana Qasimova, and the members of the world-famous music group, the Silk Road Ensemble, unite for this world premiere retelling of an ancient Persian love story through dance, music and colorful visuals. Like Romeo and Juliet, the couple at the center of this narrative are forbidden to wed. And things only spiral downwards from there.

Wednesday August 24, 2016

Bay Area fall dance picks

“Layla and Majnun”: In this full-evening Cal Performances world premiere, master choreographer Mark Morris and his dance group interpret a tragic, centuries-old love story, based on a seventh century Persian poem and set to music by Azerbaijani composer Uzeyir Hajibeyli.

Tuesday August 23, 2016

Fall arts 2016: Dance world offers big issues, bold stories

As evidence of the continuing vitality of dance throughout the Bay Area, the fall season marks some significant company anniversaries. And though celebrating a milestone birthday can be both bittersweet and anxiety-producing for an individual, for a dance company it’s a feat as gravity-defying as a grand jeté by Baryshnikov. One of our signature local companies is reintroducing itself with a new, slimmed down name: Smuin Ballet is now known by the single moniker Smuin. Some of the new season’s most anticipated events have plenty of star power, while others present opportunities to discover a few of our area’s resident treasures. Dive in.

Saturday August 20, 2016

Classical Music News of the Week, August 20, 2016

To launch the Inclusion engagement strand, and to open the 2016/17 season, September 30 – October 2, Cal Performances presents the world premiere of Layla and Majnun, a major new evening-length work by choreographer Mark Morris.

Tuesday August 16, 2016

Fall Arts Preview 2016: Dance

(Persian/opera) Mark Morris Dance Group with The Silk Road Ensemble 10/6–10/8 Layla and Majnun is an original dance and live music production based on an ancient Persian tale well known in the Islamic world and the subject of its first opera, by composer Uzeyir Hajibeyli. The work will explore the themes of love, madness and mysticism through Mark Morris’ lyrical choreography and feature popular Azerbaijani singers Alim Qasimov and Fargana Qasimova, the vibrant musicality of The Silk Road Ensemble and the striking visual palette of British painter Howard Hodgkin.

Tuesday August 16, 2016

October 15, 2016 at Power Center for The Performing Arts in Ann Arbor, MI.

Mark Morris returns with his company of 15 dancers for a new, large-scale production that receives its world premiere in September. Layla and Majnun is an Arabian love story that originated as a poem in ancient Persia and is well known among many Middle Eastern and sub-continental cultures. In love from childhood, Layla and Majnun (the name means “possessed”) are not allowed to unite. Majnun, mad in his obsession with Layla, becomes a hermit when she is married off to another man. He devotes his life to writing verses about his profound love for Layla, and although they attempt to meet, they die without ever realizing their relationship.

Tuesday August 09, 2016

October 08, 2016 at Meany Center for the Performing Arts in Seattle, WA.

“Layla and Majnun” is an original dance and live music production based on an ancient Persian tale well known in the Islamic world and the subject of its first opera, by composer Uzeyir Hajibeyli. The work will explore the themes of love, madness and mysticism through Mark Morris’ lyrical choreography and feature popular Azerbaijani singers Alim Qasimov and Fargana Qasimova, the vibrant musicality of The Silk Road Ensemble and the striking visual palette of British painter Howard Hodgkin.

Wednesday August 03, 2016

October 02, 2016 at Cal Performances in Berkeley, CA.

Mark Morris’ lyrical choreography, the emotive voices of Azerbaijan’s Alim Qasimov and Fargana Qasimova, the vibrant musicality of The Silk Road Ensemble, and the striking visual palette of British painter Howard Hodgkin combine in this world premiere performance. The timeless story of the tragic love between Layla and Majnun, most notably expressed by the great Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi, also was the foundation for the first opera of the Muslim world. Hajibeyli’s powerful music—at once profoundly sorrowful and ecstatic—honors the tale’s commitment to love, acceptance, devotion, and peace.

Saturday June 18, 2016

Sounds of India at Lincoln Center’s ‘White Light Festival’

The art and culture of South India will be the centerpiece of the prestigious music festival held annually at the renowned Lincoln Center in New York. The 7th season of Lincoln Center’s ‘White Light Festival’ will open on October 16. Award-winning choreographer Mark Morris will curate a ten-part series on it. The international multidisciplinary festival will have 41 performances in 10 venues over the course of a month, by artists and companies from nine countries. The festival will open with the US premiere of Human Requiem, an intimate and unique theatrical choral event performed by German classical choir Rundfunkchor Berlin.

Thursday June 16, 2016

Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival Draws Inspiration From India

The choreographer Mark Morris, who has long been drawn to the arts and culture of India, has programmed a 10-part series exploring the music and dance of South India that will form the centerpiece of this fall’s White Light Festival, Lincoln Center announced Thursday. 

Friday June 03, 2016

Mark Morris Up Close

The Mark Morris Dance Group presented two New York premieres as a part of its spring season. Alongside two older pieces, the repertoire showed the range of Morris’s smaller-scale concert performance choreography, encompassing rituals and formalism both ornate and more classical in nature. They danced at the company’s intimate home theater on the top floor of its Brooklyn headquarters with live music by the superb resident ensemble, which has become a proud hallmark of the troupe.

Friday May 27, 2016

Mark Morris Dance Group Review

There is no question that Mark Morris is one of the greatest choreographers America has produced. His musical acumen rivals that of George Balanhcine, and one might even compare his fertile inventiveness to that of Merce Cunningham. The Mark Morris Dance Group performed four of his dances, including a premiere, in the capacious yet intimate fifth floor studio/theater of his eponymous center in Brooklyn, instead of at BAM, his usual springtime venue. Morris geared his repertory choices to the scale of his studio theater and a small musical ensemble of four.

Sunday May 22, 2016

At Home: Cargo, A Forest, Foursome, The

After more than 35 years, Mark Morris still seems to have plenty to say. In a series of four works including a world premiere, shown in the casual James and Martha Duffy Performance Space of his own Mark Morris Dance Center, Morris offered his idiosyncratic and familiar dance worldview through relentlessly musical choreography. 

Thursday May 19, 2016

Mark Morris Dance Group – Cargo, A Forest, Foursome, The – New York

You experience choreography differently in such a setting... You become keenly aware of the dancers’ bodies: how distinct they are, how many shapes and sizes they come in. And what they sound like when they slap their thigh or stomp out rhythms on the floor. The dancers’ faces leave a powerful impression. 

Wednesday May 18, 2016

A Mark Morris Premiere Features Singular Theater Poetry

No choreographer alive has built up a stronger reputation for musicality than Mark Morris. In his finest works, he taps both our most primal and our most sophisticated responses to music. That’s not the only reason he has been recognized since the 1980s as one of the very few great choreographers of our day — there are also his exceptional imagination; his phenomenal wit; the profundity of his view of society; his insistence on live music; and his exceptionally honest, natural dancers — but it’s fundamental.

Sunday May 15, 2016

Mark Morris's Enduring Career

In the field of American dance, rarely friendly to aging bodies, the number of master choreographers working into their seventh decade—and still directing a namesake company—can pretty much be counted on one artfully extended hand. Soon to enter that elite club is Mark Morris, who turns 60 in August and whose company, the Mark Morris Dance Group, performs its spring season May 17 to 22 at his center in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.

Known as one of the more prolific makers of dance of his or any generation, Mr. Morris has amassed a long list of accolades...“Very few people have the gifts Mark has,” said Lawrence Rhodes, artistic director of the Juilliard Dance Division. “People hope to emulate his innate knowledge of music, structure and vocabulary.” The company, founded in 1980, hasn’t had a repertory season at its center since April 2013. Each of the four pieces on the program is a smaller dance—selected, Mr. Morris said, because in scale they are particularly well suited for the intimate space.

Wednesday May 11, 2016

Mark Morris Dance Group Offers Intimacy in Brooklyn

Certain dances — especially those packed with details — warrant intimacy. The Mark Morris Dance Group grants that wish with a spring season at its Brooklyn quarters, with new and vintage works by the stellar Mr. Morris and, as always, live music...One thing is sure: The close quarters will make Mr. Morris’s details shine.

Saturday April 23, 2016

Classical Music News of the Week, April 23, 2016

The University of Washington's Meany Center for the Performing Arts, newly renamed from UW World Series, today announced its programming for the 2016/17 Season, including 23 events in four subscription series—World Dance, World Music, International Chamber Music and President's Piano Series—as well as a special holiday presentation.

Wednesday April 20, 2016

New Cal Performances season puts focus on inclusion, innovation, immersion

At the core of the 111th Cal Performances season are what executive and artistic director Matías Tarnopolsky calls “three strands of artistic exploration”: inclusion, innovation and immersion. 
The inclusion theme kicks off with the season opening world premiere of Mark Morris Dance Group’s “Layla and Majnun,” with music performed by The Silk Road Ensemble with the voices of Azerbaijan’s Alim Qasimov and Fargana Qasimova, with sets and costumes by British artist Howard Hodgkin. 

Thursday September 01, 2016

Layla and Majnun – A Classic Persian Love Story - Mark Morris’s Newest Evening Length Work World Premiere -- September 30 at Cal Performances, Berkeley, CA

“No choreographer alive has built up a stronger reputation for musicality than Mark Morris” The New York Times

Morris Choreography Set to a Chamber Arrangement Performed by the Silk Road Ensemble with Stage and Costume Design from Painter Howard Hodgkin, Lighting by James F. Ingalls 

Ten National and International Performing Arts Institutions Combine Forces to Support Mark Morris’s Eighth Evening Length Work

Layla and Majnun Will Tour the US and Abroad

Thursday August 18, 2016

The Mark Morris Dance Group Celebrates 15 Years of the Mark Morris Dance Center at its Annual Open House


Thursday September 10, 2015

Mark Morris Dance Group Hosts Its Annual Free Open House at the Dance Center



Tuesday January 20, 2015

L'Allegro, Il Penseroso ed il Moderato on THIRTEEN's Great Performances

Mark Morris's signature work comes to television for the first time, hosted by Mikhail Baryshnikov.

Saturday December 28, 2013

ESSAY: Mark Morris' Dido and Aeneas by Dr. Sophia Preston

An essay by Sophia Preston

Just a few minutes into Mark Morris’s 1989 dance to Henry Purcell’s opera Dido and Aeneas it is clear that at least some of the movement “represents” the words of the libretto. Whether by looking apt (shaking hands in the air to “shake”), or through repetition (hands held out in an Indian dance mudra every time the word “fate” is heard), associations build up between gestures and words, creating a lexicon of gestural signs. This “re-presentation” of the libretto through gestures might be viewed as a redundant doubling of the words, but my contention is that, on the contrary, Morris exploits the transparency of this strategy to sophisticated and moving effect.

Friday January 27, 2012

Two Reasons the Patient is Still Kicking

Alastair Macaulay for The New York Times

Every so often someone declares ballet dead. The theater critic Kenneth Tynan even did so in the 1960s, a decade that many of us assume must have been a golden age. (The choreographer Frederick Ashton said, “It’s having the biggest funeral in history.”) In 2010 it was the turn of Jennifer Homans, the dance critic of The New Republic, in the epilogue of her ballet history, “Apollo’s Angels.” In 1993 — I’d better come clean — it was me.

Friday May 14, 2010

A Mark Morris dance you must not miss

Roger Downey for Crosscut Seattle
Sometimes it’s the fuel that creates the dance. Jerome Robbins’ strange melancholy masterwork "New York Export: Opus Jazz" (seen all over America in a new staging in late March on PBS’s Great Performances), was the work of a man recalling youth, idealizing youth, desperately evoking youth as it faded from him. But sometimes youth itself makes the dance, pours it out in full thoughtless flood. Such a work is "Gloria," created in 1981 on a part-time company of friends by a 25-year-old independent choreographer named Mark Morris.
"Gloria" is only one of three Morris works coming to Seattle’s Paramount Theater May 21-23; but it is the one which you must see, whether you are a dance fan, a baroque music buff, a theater maven, or simply a person who has sometimes felt moving in the soul the feeling expressed by Dylan Thomas’s immortally longing Polly Garter in Under Milk Wood: “Oh, isn’t life a terrible thing, thank God?”

Friday November 24, 1995

ESSAY: Roger Downey on Dido and Aeneas

All it took to condemn one of the greatest operas ever written to three centuries in shadows were a bare dozen words—“Perform'd at Mr. Josias Priest's Boarding-School at Chelsey. By Young Gentlewomen.”

And the worst of it? It wasn’t even true.

In fact Henry Purcell's Dido and Aeneas was probably written for performance before the King and Queen of England. But those words, at the head of the libretto published in 1689, have cast such a pall of dainty respectability, of amateur night shenanigans over the work that most listeners have neglected the evidence of their own ears. Dido has been mostly revived professionally when a mezzo-soprano combining musical insight with box-office clout—a Kirsten Flagstad, a Josephine Baker—has insisted on performing it. Paradoxically, Mark Morris's danced version of the piece has probably done more to establish Dido in the repertory than those artists did. 

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