Rita Donahue first saw the Mark Morris Dance Group, and a glimpse of her future, when she was in high school. The group was performing at the Center for the Arts, and returns often on tours. As an undergrad studying English and dance at Mason, Donahue had the chance to perform a piece with the student dance company and be coached by Morris himself.

Almost ten years later, Donahue is returning to Mason as a member of the company herself to perform at the Center for the Arts on Feb. 8 at 8 p.m. and Feb. 9 at 8 p.m.

“I’m not sure if I would have pursued a career in dance if I hadn’t gone through the dance program at Mason,” Donahue said. “It was great experience that taught me discipline. And it was was a lot of fun. You can certainly find work as a dancer with some hard work.”

Another member of the dance group, Billy Smith, is also a Mason alumnus. Donahue remembers coming to Mason to perform with the Mark Morris Dance Group and seeing Smith perform as a student.

For half of the year the group is on the road, touring across the country and internationally, most recently in Richmond and Madrid. For the remainder of the year they are rehearsing and cross training at home in Brooklyn, NY at their dance studio.

“This is too much work to just be a hobby,” Donahue said. “People don’t realize just how much time and effort we put into this job.”

The Mark Morris Dance Group was founded by its namesake Mark Morris in 1980 and has since toured internationally. Critically acclaimed by the New York Times and the Washington Post, Morris’ modern dance pieces use live music as the impetus for the performance.

“He’s created a great company,” said Donahue. “It takes a lot more work than just finding dancers.”

Modern dance is distinguished from ballet by their bare feet during performances. The performance will feature three D.C. area premieres by the group: The Office, performed by seven dancers accompanied by live violins, cello and harmonium; Socrates, a Greek themed piece featuring 15 dancers; and Festival Dance, set to Hummel’s Piano Trio No. 5 in E major with 12 dancers.

Tickets for the show range from $23 to $46. 1 free ticket is available with a student ID.


Colleen Wilson