Susan Marshall, hailed by The New York Times as “one of the most significant choreographers working today,” combines explosive athleticism with subtle yet familiar movements drawn from daily life.
Next week her troupe, Susan Marshall & Company, will present “Cloudless,” a collection of solos, duets and small group pieces, as part of the Edison Theatre OVATIONS! Series. Performances begin at 8 p.m. March 28 and 29.
Marshall, the recipient of a 2000 MacArthur Foundation “genius award,” got her start in 1982 creating works for CoDanceCo, a New York repertory company; and at The Yard, the venerable performing arts colony on Martha’s Vineyard, where her collaborators included dancers Arthur Armijo and WUSTL alumnus David Dorfman (BSBA ’77).
Marshall presented her first evening-length concerts shortly thereafter at New York’s Emanu-El Midtown YM-YWHA and at PS 122. In 1985, she began what would become a long-term relationship with the city’s Dance Theatre Workshop, presenting a weeklong season as Susan Marshall & Company. The warm critical reception included the first of the company’s 10 New York Dance and Performance, or “Bessie,” Awards.
Over the years, Marshall’s work has evolved from short, intimate duets such as “Arms” (1984) and “Kiss” (1987) — both of which remain in repertory — to large-scale works such as “The Descent Beckons” (1999), “The Most Dangerous Room in the House” (1998) and “Les Enfants Terribles (The Children of the Game)” (1996), created in collaboration with composer Philip Glass.
“Cloudless,” which debuted at Dance Theatre Workshop in 2006, was created to celebrate the company’s 20th anniversary and revisits many of the themes that have defined Marshall’s career. Structured as a collection of short stories, the concert is comprised of 18 poetic yet unpredictable vignettes ranging in length from 30 seconds to 5 minutes that wed formal dance structures with everyday motions and gestures — an embrace, a touch, a turn of the head. The results blur the line between narrative and abstract dance and gather increasing emotional force as the evening progresses.
“The fascination of Marshall’s work lies in the way her intelligently calibrated constructions reveal nuances of human emotion,” noted New York Magazine. “Her central subject matter seems to be the complexity of intimate relationships, the absurdities and even hidden hostilities that form part of even the tenderest friendship, the sweetest romance.”
In 2006, “Cloudless” received the Bessie Award for Outstanding Choreographic Achievement — Marshall’s third win in the category. Other honors, in addition to the MacArthur Fellowship, include an American Choreographer Award, a Dance Magazine Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Brandeis University Creative Arts Citation and two New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) Fellowships.
Susan Marshall & Company appears at dozens of international festivals annually, including the Edinburgh International Festival, Festival International de Nouvelle Danse in Montreal, Spoleto, the American Dance Festival, Vienna Tanz and the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival.
Marshall also has created dances for the Lyon Opera Ballet, the Frankfurt Ballet, the Boston Ballet and Montreal Danse, among others. She recently provided stage direction for Glass’ “Book of Longing,” based on the poetry of Leonard Cohen, and choreographed dances in operas staged for the Los Angeles Music Center and the New York City Opera.
Tickets — $30; $25 for seniors, faculty and staff; and $18 for students and children — are available at the Edison Theatre Box Office and through all MetroTix outlets. For more information, call 935-6543 or e-mail Edison@wustl.edu.