Morgan Thorson

Morgan Thorson is a dance-maker based in Minneapolis. She creates original dance works that combine movement, light, sound, and objects while taking into consideration the site of the work, representation of the body, and history of the field. Her work has been described as having “an explosive physicality tempered by sinuous lines and subtle drama” (Minneapolis Star Tribune). She has been touring her dance projects since 2002.

Thorson is a  recipient of the Doris Duke Performing Artist Award (2016), a United States Artist (2012), Guggenheim (2010) and McKnight (2009, 2002) Fellow, and has received two Sage Awards for Outstanding Performance (2008 and 2007). Thorson is a United States Artist (2012) Guggenheim (2010) and McKnight (2009, 2002) Fellow and has received two Sage Awards for Outstanding Performance (2008 and 2007). Her work has received support from The Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography Residency and Fellowship Program (2009, 2011 and 2015), and she was the resident artist at the Centre Choreographique National De Franche-Comte in Belfort, France, as well as a MacDowell Artist Colony Fellow in 2012.  She has received three New England Foundation for the Arts, National Dance Project grants (2008, 2012 and 2015).

Thorson's work has toured to theaters and festivals worldwide, and has been commissioned and presented by Walker Art Center, On The Boards in Seattle, Red Cat in Los Angeles, PS 122 in New York City and Alverno Presents in Milwaukee among others. She has created works for Zenon Dance Company, James Sewell Ballet, Barnard College and several national universities. Her first three-month public residency/exhibition was installed at Weisman Art Museum June-September, 2015.

A certified Skinner Releasing Technique instructor, Thorson is a Creative Campus Fellow at Wesleyan University where she engages students and professors in interdisciplinary practices and develops pedagogy in Dance, Drawing, Archaeology, and Religious Studies.  As a performer, Morgan has worked with Ann Carlson, Jennifer Monson, Tino Segal, Karen Sherman and HIJACK, and provided dramaturgy for Ann Carlson and the group DanceBums.  She is a member of the Minneapolis Tuning Club and the founder of ORG, ongoing research group.

Returning Choreographic Fellow | Oct 28 - Nov 15, 2015

Still Life

Morgan Thorson returned to MANCC to further develop her project Still Life -- a dance installation that uses extinction as research material. Specifically, Thorson investigated the temporal and physical elements found in both performance and death, such as anticipation, endurance, totality (or embodied aliveness), survival, comfort, absence, stillness and decomposition. This long-form, ensemble choreography takes the shape of a dance cycle — a looping pattern of choreography that gradually breaks down over time. This form uses repetition and subtraction as a mark of time to ritualize what is gone and to create something new. The cycle repeats until it disappears, so that the choreography itself is actually dying.

During her residency, Thorson spoke with scholars and community experts. She met with Dr. Nicole Kelley of the Department of Religion who specializes in ancient conceptions of the body as an artifact of religious import. Dr. Geoffrey Thomas of the Department of Anthropology discussed how Forensic Anthropological practices relate to time’s effects on the expired corporeal body. Thorson’s inquiry continued with Dr. Jimmy Yu of the Department of Religion to discuss his research detailed in his book, Sanctity and Self-Inflicted Violence in Chinese Religions, 1500-1700. Rocky Ezell, Funeral Director of Abbey Funeral Home and Memorial Garden, provided a contemporary view of the diverse, American cultural practices associated with commemorating the life of the deceased -- as well as the required, practical procedures involved in handling the non-extant physical body. Pam Mezzina, Bereavement Services Manager of Big Bend Hospice discussed her advocacy work around educating and caring for those mourning the loss of a loved one.

Thorson also worked with moving stillness, studying the way a still body decays over different intervals of time, and experimented with these procedures on School of Dance undergraduates and graduate candidates. The public was invited to drop into an Open Studio session, where they could watch the work in process and have the opportunity to provide feedback. Thorson cultivated extreme alertness in the performers through real-time, live directing. In this system of communication, she covertly signaled different sequences and modes of moving to the dancers during the Open Studio.

  • <i>Still Life</i> Rehearsal
  • <i>Still Life</i> Rehearsal
  • <i>Still Life</i> Rehearsal
  • Kara Motta
  • <i>Still Life</i> Rehearsal
  • Valerie Oliveiro and Genevieve Muench
  • <i>Still Life</i> Rehearsal
  • Morgan Thorson and Sam Johnson
  • <i>Still Life</i> Rehearsal
  • <i>Still Life</i> Rehearsal
  • <i>Still Life</i> Rehearsal
  • Morgan Thorson
  • Sam Johnson
  • <i>Still Life</i> Rehearsal
  • Genevieve Muench and Eben Kowler
  • Muench and Kara Motta
  • Thorson, Kowler and Muench
  • School of Dance students work with Thorson
  • FSU student Jacqueline Cannon and Sam Johnson
  • Religion Professor Dr. Jimmy Yu and Morgan Thorson
  • Dr. Nicole Kelley, Department of Religion talks with Morgan Thorson
  • Dramaturg Kristin Van Loon
  • <i>Still Life</i> Open Studio
  • <i>Still Life</i> Open Studio
  • <i>Still Life</i> Open Studio
  • <i>Still Life</i> Open Studio
  • <i>Still Life</i> Open Studio
  • <i>Still Life</i> Open Studio
  • <i>Still Life</i> Open Studio
  • <i>Still Life</i> Open Studio
  • <i>Still Life</i> Open Studio
  • <i>Still Life</i> Open Studio
  • <i>Still Life</i> Open Studio
  • <i>Still Life</i> Open Studio
  • <i>Still Life</i> Open Studio
  • <i>Still Life</i> Open Studio
  • <i>Still Life</i> collaborators discuss open studio

Collaborators in Residence: Sam Johnson, Eben Kowler, Genevieve Muench, Margaret Johnson, Kara Motta and Pareena Lim [Dancers], Lenore Doxsee [Lighting Designer], Valerie Oliveiro [Stage Manager/Dancer] and Kristin Van Loon (Dramaturg / Dancer)

Returning Choreographic Fellow | December 6 - December 16, 2011

Spaceholder Festival

Thorson returned to MANCC to explore Spaceholder Festival, an ensemble work 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

Faye Driscoll

February 22 - 24
Carolina Performing
Arts, UNC Chapel Hill


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