Press Room

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January 10, 2008
Contact: Press & Media Relations Coordinator (703-993-8794)

For general information about tickets, seating, parking, etc., for performances and events happening at the Center for the Arts, please contact the ticket office directly at 703-993-2787.

Music by Henry Purcell
Friday, Feb. 15 at 8 p.m. and Saturday, Feb. 16 at 8 p.m.


FAIRFAX, Va., Jan. 10, 2008 – For the first time ever, legendary choreographer Mark Morris presents an evening-length piece at George Mason University’s Center for the Arts. Mark Morris Dance Group performs Henry Purcell’s opera "Dido and Aeneas," at the Center for the Arts on Friday, Feb. 15 at 8 p.m. and Saturday, Feb. 16 at 8 p.m. Morris first staged this piece in 1989 at Brussels’ Theatre de la Monnaie and this monumental work highlights the group’s incredible talent for drama, and Morris’s magnificent ability to create beautiful movement. “Morris’ 'Dido and Aeneas' is one of the most intensely realized, startling moving theatre pieces I’ve ever seen.” (Daily Telegraph) A pre-performance discussion, free to ticketholders, begins 45 minutes prior to each performance on the Center’s Grand Tier III.

'Dido and Aeneas' is based on the tragic love story between Dido, the Queen of Carthage and Trojan refugee Aeneas, as told in Virgil’s "Aeneid." When Morris first staged the opera, he drew intense interest and critical acclaim for his gender-bending dual roles as the doomed queen Dido and the evil Sorceress. “A daring and revelatory production.” (Wall Street Journal) The piece was praised for “the richness of the choreography, the beauty of the music, the expressive technique of the dancers and the flawless synergy of the three.” ( After retiring the piece for several years, Morris brought it back to the stage, initially separating the roles with a woman in the Dido role and a man in the Sorceress role, and then returning to the original staging with one dancer performing both roles. Amber Darragh, a female dancer, dances the roles of Dido and the Sorceress on Feb. 15, while Bradon McDonald, a male dancer performs both roles on Feb. 16 (Casting subject to change). Morris’ staging of the piece demonstrates how a work transitions over time. Instead of imitatating Morris’ style, the MMDG dancers have inhabited the roles, making them their own. Of the new staging, the New York Sun wrote, “The piece itself remains the star: timelessly beautiful, fascinating, exactingly staged.” Rita Donahue, a CVPA dance department alum and MMDG company member, dances the role of the Second Woman in this production.

Known for his appreciation and for employment of live music in his pieces, Morris not only choreographed this danced opera, but will conduct the chamber orchestra for these performances. “The live music is an integral part of the performance – the dancers are responding to that music as much as they are responding to the other dancers,” Morris said in the Evening Mail. “There is no other dance company so at one with its choreography and with its music.” (Financial Times)


PNC is the 2007-08 Season Sponsor for Great Performances at Mason.

Tickets for MARK MORRIS DANCE GROUP’s performance of DIDO AND AENEAS are $50, $42, $25. Charge by phone at 888-945-2468 or visit The Center for the Arts complex is located on the Fairfax campus of George Mason University at the intersection of Braddock Road and Route 123. Paid parking is located in the deck adjacent to the mainstage Concert Hall and FREE parking is located in university lot K. Visit

GREAT PERFORMANCES AT MASON is a program of George Mason University’s Center for the Arts, the professional presenting arm of the College of Visual and Performing Arts. The College of Visual and Performing Arts exists to create an academic environment in which the arts may be considered both as individual disciplines and as interdisciplinary forms that strengthen each other. Believing that an education in the arts is deepened by regular contact with the work of distinguished visiting artists, the College draws on a variety of professional presenting and producing units where artists from across the country and around the world regularly perform, give master classes, work with students during extended residencies and interact with the community in a variety of other ways. These programs at the Center for the Arts Concert Hall, TheaterSpace, Galleries, Harris Theater and other venues, provide a diverse selection of challenging and entertaining cultural experiences for the University community, as well as Northern Virginia and the greater Washington, D.C. area. The College houses four academic departments: Art and Visual Technology, Dance, Music and Theater.

About George Mason University

George Mason University, located in the heart of Northern Virginia’s technology corridor near Washington, D.C., is an innovative, entrepreneurial institution with national distinction in a range of academic fields. With strong undergraduate and graduate degree programs in engineering, information technology, biotechnology and health care, Mason prepares its students to succeed in the work force and meet the needs of the region and the world. Mason professors conduct groundbreaking research in areas such as cancer, climate change, information technology and the biosciences, and Mason’s Center for the Arts brings world-renowned artists, musicians and actors to its stage. Its School of Law is recognized by U.S. News & World Report as one of the top 35 law schools in the United States.


Mark Morris was born on August 29, 1956, in Seattle, Washington, where he studied as a young man with Verla Flowers and Perry Brunson. In the early years of his career, he performed with Lar Lubovitch, Hannah Kahn, Laura Dean, Eliot Feld and the Koleda Balkan Dance Ensemble. He formed the Mark Morris Dance Group in 1980, and has since created more than 120 works for the company. From 1988-1991, he was Director of Dance at the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels, the national opera house of Belgium. Among the works created during his tenure were three evening-length dances: "The Hard Nut"; "L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato"; and "Dido and Aeneas." In 1990, he founded the White Oak Dance Project with Mikhail Baryshnikov. Morris is also much in demand as a ballet choreographer. He has created six works for the San Francisco Ballet since 1994 and received commissions from American Ballet Theatre and the Boston Ballet, among others. His work is also in the repertory of the Pacific Northwest Ballet, Dutch National Ballet, New Zealand Ballet, Houston Ballet, English National Ballet and The Royal Ballet. Morris is noted for his musicality and has been described as “undeviating in his devotion to music.” He has worked extensively in opera, directing and choreographing productions for The Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, English National Opera and The Royal Opera, Covent Garden. Morris was named a Fellow of the MacArthur Foundation in 1991. He has received eight honorary doctorates to date. In 2006, Morris received the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs Mayor’s Award for Arts & Culture and a WQXR Gramophone Special Recognition Award. He is the subject of a biography 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."  Morris is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2007, he received the Samuel H. Scripps/American Dance Festival lifetime achievement award.


The Mark Morris Dance Group was formed in 1980 and gave its first concert that year in New York City. The company’s touring schedule steadily expanded to include cities both in the U.S. and in Europe, and in 1986 it made its first national television program for the PBS series "Dance in America."  In 1988, MMDG was invited to become the national dance company of Belgium, and spent three years in residence at the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels. The company returned to the United States in 1991 as one of the world’s leading dance companies, performing across the United States and at major international festivals. It has maintained and strengthened its ties to several cities around the world, most notably its West Coast home, Cal Performances in Berkeley, Calif., and its midwest home, the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts in Urbana, lll. MMDG also appears regularly in Boston, Mass.; Fairfax, Va.; Seattle, W. Va.; and at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Becket, Mass. MMDG made its debut at the Mostly Mozart Festival in 2002 and at the Tanglewood Music Festival in 2003 and has since been invited to both festivals annually. The company’s London seasons have garnered two Laurence Olivier Awards. MMDG is noted for its commitment to live music, a feature of every performance on its full international touring schedule since 1996. MMDG collaborates with leading orchestras, opera companies and musicians including cellist Yo-Yo Ma in the Emmy Award-winning film "Falling Down Stairs" (1997); Indian composer Zakir Hussain, Mr. Ma and jazz pianist Ethan Iverson in "Kolam" (2002); The Bad Plus in "Violet Cavern" (2004); pianists Emanuel Ax and Yoko Nozaki for "Mozart Dances" (2006); and with the English National Opera in "Four Saints in Three Acts" (2000) and "King Arthur" (2006), among others. MMDG’s film and television projects also include "Dido and Aeneas," "The Hard Nut" and two documentaries for the United Kingdom’s South Bank Show. In fall 2001, MMDG opened the Mark Morris Dance Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., the company's first permanent headquarters in the United States., housing rehearsal space for the dance community, outreach programs for local children, as well as a school offering dance classes to students of all ages. For more information, visit