Bloomberg Businessweek

SAVING THE LAST DANCE

The great choreographers of the 20th century face an existential crisis: What will their companies do when they’re gone?
Mark Morris in a rehearsal studio at his five-story dance building in downtown Brooklyn

Choreographer Mark Morris just finished creating a new dance in February. And, if it’s anything like the roughly 150 works that made him a darling of the performance world, it will be breathtaking. But this particular piece of modern dance won’t be presented next season. In fact, it won’t be performed for years—maybe 20, possibly 30. It’s intended to give the Mark Morris Dance Group fresh material long after its innovative director is gone.

Morris, 61, isn’t in ill health. But the idea to save some works for the future came up when Nancy Umanoff, the executive director of his 38-year-old company, was exploring ways to preserve the choreographer’s legacy. That includes not only his body of work, but also a popular school, numerous outreach programs, and the seven-studio Mark Morris Dance Center—which helped anchor Brooklyn’s downtown arts district. In 2017 the company had revenue of $5.5 million from performances.

On hearing about the preservation concept, Morris was immediately excited. Or almost immediately. His first reaction, he says, was, “What? Are you trying to kill me?!”

Like many visionary choreographers, he founded his troupe with a particular aesthetic, and his dancers perform only

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