In Conversation: Bijayini Satpathy with Mark Morris
The Spring 2021 season of premieres commissioned by BAC includes a series of live-streamed talks with the artists about their projects and creative processes.
In conjunction with the premiere of Vibhanga, her first choreographic endeavor, classical Indian dancer Bijayini Satpathy talks with the influential choreographer Mark Morris.
Morris – a devotee of Indian classical music and dance – considers the former principal of Nrityagram Dance Ensemble “easily among the top five dancers I’ve ever seen in my lifetime.”
Vibhanga is available to watch free, on demand February 1–15, Monday at 5PM ET until Monday at 5PM ET.
BAC Artist Commissions made possible with generous leadership support from Anonymous, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Howard Gilman Foundation, Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine Kaye Foundation, Mertz Gilmore Foundation, Jerome Robbins Foundation, Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller Fund, Thompson Family Foundation, and Robert and Kathleen Wallace.
Lead support of dance programming at BAC is provided by the Rudolf Nureyev Endowment.
As of January, 2021.
Bijayini Satpathy’s passion for Odissi was first groomed in Orissa and later honed in the famed Nrityagram Dance Ensemble after she was selected in an audition by the late founder, Protima Gauri, and became the solo debutant in 1997.
She studied and perfected Odissi with Nrityagram as a performer, teacher, research scholar, and administrator until 2018. Considered one of the foremost masters of Odissi in the world, she began conceptualizing her solo work to choreograph and expand the form after 25 years of touring globally with Nrityagram. “She’s easily among the top five dancers I’ve ever seen in my lifetime” said Mark Morris. Hailed by The New Yorker as “a performer of exquisite grace and technique,” Bijayini Satpathy’s solo debut in the U.S., Kalpana, The World of Imagination, has been listed as one of the best dances of 2019 in Dance Magazine and was nominated for a 2020 Bessie Award. As Principal Dancer of Nrityagram, Bijayini has shared a unique partnership with Nrityagram’s Artistic Director and Choreographer, Surupa Sen, in all her original works in the last two decades and has contributed to them with her skill as a performer, scholar and designer. Her duets with Surupa Sen are considered singularly admirable and exemplary. Their duet Vibhakta was rated as one of the best dance performances of 2008 by Joan Acocella in The New Yorker.
Mark Morris, praised as “the most successful and influential choreographer alive, and indisputably the most musical” (New York Times), was born on August 29, 1956, in Seattle, Washington, where he studied with Verla Flowers and Perry Brunson.
In the early years of his career, he performed with the companies of Lar Lubovitch, Hannah Kahn, Laura Dean, Eliot Feld, and the Koleda Balkan Dance Ensemble. He formed the Mark Morris Dance Group (MMDG) in 1980 and has since created over 150 works for the company. From 1988 to 1991, he was Director of Dance at the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels, the national opera house of Belgium. In 1990, he founded the White Oak Dance Project with Mikhail Baryshnikov. Morris is also an acclaimed ballet choreographer, with twenty-two works commissioned by ballet companies worldwide. Noted for his musicality, Morris has been described as “undeviating in his devotion to music” (The New Yorker). He began conducting performances for MMDG in 2006 and has since conducted at Tanglewood Music Center, Lincoln Center, and BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music). In 2013, he served as Music Director for the Ojai Music Festival. Morris also works extensively in opera, directing and choreographing productions for The Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, English National Opera, and The Royal Opera, Covent Garden, among others. He was named a Fellow of the MacArthur Foundation in 1991 and has received eleven honorary doctorates to date. He has taught at the University of Washington, Princeton University, and Tanglewood Music Center. He is the subject of a biography, Mark Morris, by Joan Acocella (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), and Marlowe & Company published a volume of photographs and critical essays entitled Mark Morris’ L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato: A Celebration. Mark Morris: Musician-Choreographer, by musicologist Stephanie Jordan, was released in 2015. Morris’ memoir, Out Loud, co-written with Wesley Stace, was published by Penguin Press in October 2019. Morris is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society, and has served as an Advisory Board Member for the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative. He has received the Samuel H. Scripps/American Dance Festival Award for Lifetime Achievement, the Leonard Bernstein Lifetime Achievement Award for the Elevation of Music in Society, the Benjamin Franklin Laureate Prize for Creativity, the International Society for the Performing Arts’ Distinguished Artist Award, the Cal Performances Award of Distinction in the Performing Arts, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s Gift of Music Award, and the 2016 Doris Duke Artist Award. In 2015, Morris was inducted into the Mr. and Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney Hall of Fame at the National Museum of Dance in Saratoga Springs, New York. Morris opened the Mark Morris Dance Center in Brooklyn, New York, in 2001 to provide a home for his company, subsidized rental space for local artists, community education programs for children and seniors, and a school offering dance classes to students of all ages and levels of experience with and without disabilities.
Photos: Mahesh Bhat, Beowulf Sheehan