Anna Chiara Corradino

Panel 5C: Performance, Dance and Theatricality
Session 5 – July 3, 11:00 – 13:00

 “Look down ye orbs and see a new divinity”: Mark Morris’ Dance Adaptation of Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas

If had we been at the BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music of New York) in 1990, we would have been able to see Mark Morris performing with his friend Guillermo Resto a definitely peculiar staging of Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas. Mark Morris cast himself in the dual role of Dido and the evil Sorceress that plots the Queen’s demise. Furthermore, the Mark Morris Dance Group (and not company!) was a bizarre assortment of dancers, most of whom were amateurs, since by the early ’80s the dance boom was on its way out and being only a professional dancer had become incredibly hard in the United States. In addition, the rising tide of political anger (gay, feminist, racial) was central for artistic practices at the time, and young choreographers were trying to express this anger by incorporating it in their shows. Mark Morris and his group were able to create a dialogue with these movements both in terms of choreography and of diversity of the crew.

Dido and Aeneas may be considered emblematic in this regard since it is a hybrid staging on many levels as well as an interesting transcodification of Purcell’s opera. With a punk rocker look, Morris staged using the techniques of the great choreographers of the century, first of all Martha Graham, blending it with his personal abilities, in order to address topical political issues of the time. Similarly and at the same time differently from other stagings of this ballet –the one by Sasha Waltz for example– Morris had the ability to put together different forms of dancing, among them studies on folklore dancing and on Greek iconographic representations.

In my talk, I want to explore how this widely hybrid form of staging dialogues with the music by Henry Purcell as well as with the libretto by Nahum Tate in order to rewrite stylistic boundaries and redefine the forms of political demands in performances o dance in the late ’80s early ’90s.


Anna Chiara Corradino is a PhD student in Comparative literature at Universities of Bologna and L’Aquila. She graduated both in Classics and in Italian Modern literature, with a special focus on classical reception of mythology in Renaissance, Baroque and Contemporary literature and art. Her research project aims to show how the study of the reception of Endymion’s myth can be a useful tool to analyse the archaeology of necrophilia committed by a dominant woman against a passive and objectified male in male-centred discourse, as well as defining the contemporary tendencies of female necrophilia in feminist literature.