Mark Morris Dance Group brings back alumni for performances this weekend

The Mark Morris Dance Group will be performing for two nights at George Mason University's Center for the Arts featuring two former George Mason Univeristy students (photo courtesy of Stephanie Berger).
The Mark Morris Dance Group will be performing for two nights at George Mason University's Center for the Arts featuring two former George Mason Univeristy students (photo courtesy of Stephanie Berger).

The New York City-based Mark Morris Dance Group will be performing for two nights at George Mason University’s Center for the Arts. Praised by dance star Mikhail Baryshnikov as “one of the great choreographers of our time,” Mark Morris is no joke in the dance world.

Having choreographed over 120 works of dance, he has worked with the best of the best in the dance world. Captivating audiences for more than 30 years, this company, named after the prestigious choreographer, travels with both live vocalists and instrumentalists to make every performance unique.


A Mason alumna, Rita Donahue has been with the company for almost ten years as a regular company member. Donahue first saw the Mark Morris Dance Group while she was taking classes at Mason. Donahue sees her dance training at Mason as having had a big impact on where she is now.

“It was all of the teachers collectively and the former Mason students who are in the company who were a huge influence on me,” Donahue said in an interview. “It wasn’t just one particular part; it was the whole package that served as my support and inspiration…they gave me the confidence to pursue dancing.”

Donahue says that the live music is the most unique (part/aspect) about the company and the performances. Every night is different.

George Mason University alumna has been with the Mark Morris Dance Group for almost ten years and will be featured in their upcomming performance at the Center for the Arts (photo courtesy of Richard Termine).

“You can’t rely on a pause in the music because you are fully engaged in the moment,” Donahue said. “And sometimes there’s a mistake that happens and you’re on stage and you have to try and evolve around the issue. Sometimes a violinist’s string breaks—which has happened—and you just have to keep going.”

The live musicians and vocalists play a range of music from classical to contemporary. For their performances at Mason, the dance group will perform to chamber music and classical works by Dvorak.

A typical day for any dancer is strenuous. For Donahue, a typical day in New York starts with ballet class and rehearsal beginning at 10:30 a.m. and lasting until 5:30 p.m. with an hour break for lunch.

On the road, the group gets to the performance venue and rehearses all day until performance time as they work on the technical aspects of the performance such as sound and lighting. Donahue and the rest of the group will only need to show up a few hours before the performance if they are at the same place for an extended amount of time.

Despite the long days of traveling and rehearsing, Donahue believes that the incorporation of the live music and dance provides her with something rewarding and unique for the audience.

“If you love music you should come out to the show. And if you love dancing you absolutely have to come because you also experience incredible music,” Donahue said.

Not only will Friday and Saturday’s performances feature  Donahue, but the show will also include former Mason dance student Billy Smith. A 2007 graduate, Smith has been working with Mason dance students on a piece he choreographed specifically for the students. The piece will be performed at the dance department’s 2013 Gala Concert on March 22 and 23 at the Center for the Arts.

The Mark Morris Dance Group will perform on Friday, Feb. 8 and Saturday, Feb. 9 of this week at 8 p.m.

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