Morgan Thorson

For Morgan Thorson, dance-making is an occupation of necessity. Her choreography is driven by a persistent need to investigate culturally, socially and perceptually relevant life experience, and is deepened by her continued study of dance as a purveyor of the same.  Her original works combine movement, light, sound and objects, always taking into consideration the site of the work, the representation of the body, the impulse of her collaborators and the history of the field.

Based in Minneapolis, Morgan has received many awards for her work including NEFA’s Fused grant in 2011 and a 2010 Guggenheim Fellowship. In 2009,  she was named "Best Choreographer" by the Minneapolis-St. Paul City Pages for Heaven, a work commissioned by Walker Art Center (WAC), Performance Space 122, and DiverseWorks and developed at the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography (MANCC). In 2007, she received a Sage Award for Outstanding Choreography and "Best Choreographer" from the City Pages for her self-produced, site-specific work Docudrama - a dance that mined the performers’ dance training and sense of community. Her evening-length Faker, commissioned by WAC, received a 2006 Sage Award for Outstanding Choreography. The James Sewell Ballet commissioned two works including the critically acclaimed No Feeling For Harmony in 2006. Other honors also include the McKnight Foundation Fellowship in Choreography 2009 and 2002; a 2010 Dance To Go award; and multiple awards from the Jerome Foundation. Her latest work, Deluxe Edition, was commissioned by and created for Zenon Dance Company.  

Morgan’s upcoming year of research, which will take place at MANCC in December 2011 and Centre Choreographique National De Franche-Comte in Belfort, France, in March 2012, centers on externalizing patterns hidden within the body and creating movement artifacts as accurate records of human experience. Morgan is a certified Skinner Releasing Technique teacher, a faculty member at the University of Minnesota, and an advisor for the SCUBA touring network. She began dancing at a young age, with formative ballet instruction from Carol Sumner in Balanchine technique. 

Morgan graduated from Barnard College in 1987. After a long hiatus from dance she resumed her (MOVEMENT/DANCE) studies with Cynthia Novack, Daniel Nagrin, Jennifer Monson and Lisa Nelson. She began making full-evening dances in 2000.

Returning Choreographic Fellow | December 6 - December 16, 2011

Spaceholder Festival

Thorson returned to MANCC to explore her new work, Spaceholder Festival, an ensemble that invents and presents movement as choreographic artifact. Using archaeological thinking as a framework, the piece excavates personal history from layers of the body, and looks at corporal and compositional patterning as a way of accumulating, communicating and giving value to movement. Spaceholder Festival also uses auctioneering-style verbal chants to extend patterns into the aural realm. These kinesthetic and sonic patterns are markers of the piece's temporal evolution, which allowed the piece to be seen as an artifact itself. 

While in residence, Thorson continued the development of movement artifacts generated from a physical process of clarifying "found" gestures, shapes, or behavior coded in the body.  She collaborated with Sound Designer and Composer Sxip Shirey to develop an original score which incorporates aural rhythms from auctioneering, sonic burial and excavation and other "found" sounds. She also researched the sequencing of structural patterns, built through repetition and accumulation, and shared this material with the local community in an open rehearsal.

Thorson met with Auctioneer Joseph Kikta and FSU Anthropologists Mike Uzendowski and Mary Pohl, to discuss themes and concepts relevant to the work. In addition, Archaeologist Dr. Bonnie McEwan gave Thorson, Wirsing, and Van Loon a private tour of Mission San Luis, a historic Spanish Colonial Mission to learn about artifact excavation and preservation.  

  • Thorson and collaborators research at Mission San Luis with Dr. Bonnie McEwan.
  • Dr. McEwan talks with Thorson, Van Loon and Wirsing in a reconstructed Spanish Fort.
  • Wirsing, Van Loon and Thorson tour the San Luis Archaeology Lab with Dr. McEwan.
  • Dr. McEwan explains the specialized treatment process to remove rust from iron work artifacts.
  • An example of pottery shards on view during the tour of the San Luis Archaeology Lab.
  • Dr. McEwan shares information on topographical maps with Thorson, Wirsing, and Van Loon.
  • Cressey, Wirsing, Van Loon and Sherman rehearse <i>Spaceholder Festival<i>
  • Jessica Cressey, Kristin Van Loon and Hannah Kramer research movement artifacts
  • Rehearsal for <i>Spaceholder Festival<i>
  • Sherman, Cressey, Kramer and Van Loon developing <i>Spaceholder Festival<i>
  • Kramer, Sherman and Thorson researching movement themes
  • Composer Sxip Shirey and rehearsal assistant Loren Davidson
  • Thorson and collaborators create movement in rehearsal
  • <i>Spaceholder Festival</i> open rehearsal
  • Wirsing and Kramer perform <i>Spaceholder Festival<i>
  • Kramer, Sherman, Van Loon, Cressey and Wirsing
  • Sherman, Cressey, Van Loon and Kramer
  • Cressey, Sherman, Kramer and Van Loon in open rehearsal
  • Sherman, Cressey, Kramer, Wirsing and Van Loon
  • Van Loon, Cressey, Sherman and Wirsing
  • Kramer, Wirsing, Cressey, Van Loon and Sherman
Collaborators in Residence: Jessica L. Cressey, Hannah Kramer, Karen Sherman, Kristin Van Loon, Max Wirsing [performers], Sxip Shirey [sound design/composer]. Slideshow photos by Chris Cameron and Al Hall.

Choreographic Fellow | February 7 – March 7, 2009


Thorson researched a new ensemble work exploring emotional and physical manifestations of ecstasy, perfection and paradise, gleaning forms and concepts from religious practices as strategies for creating the same state through dance. Thorson says, “This project was inspired by the rigor and austerity of religious practices, with a concentrated investigation of its communal purpose. Simplicity and economy can demonstrate how extreme restriction can be turned into powerful kinesthetic expressions.”

Heaven premiered at The Walker Art Center March 4-6, 2010. 

Collaborators in Residence: Lenore Doxsee [lighting designer], Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker [sound designers], Renee Copeland, Jessica Cressey, Elliott Durko Lynch, Justin Jones, Emmett Ramstad, Chris Schlichting, Karen Sherman and Max Wirsing [dancers + singers]. Slideshow photos by Kathryn Noletto Felis. 

Featured Artist

Emily Johnson

August 6 - 8
Oberlin Dance
Collective (CA)


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