queer mades push against normative gestural expression, even as they push against themselves. "11" (2011) created by james morrow, and included in "theoryography 4.5," cast a queer contemporary dancer/ b-boy into a series of elusive gestures reminiscent of catholic church practice, intercut with odd, loving manipulations of prop chairs. morrow dances away from the audience for much of this work, often exploring dramatic physical ideas without revealing his facial expression; sudden shifts in movement style signal a moody, always-fragmentary mode of queer production. at time, morrow's gestures fail and he repeats them, violently; but the dance as a whole fails to offer a coherent movement vocabulary or approach to its own contents. by the time morrow removes his shirt to retrieve a razor and shave his chest, revealing a prominent OBEY tattoo along his arm, his audience imagines an assemblage of experience that combine via their proximity within this performance. morrow's body engages these varied modes of moving; the work offers queer assemblage that ends with a full-color projection of a beating heart on the performer's exposed skin. b-boy movement, religious ritual gesture, neo-african dance, intimate personal grooming, and odd media projection collide in the performer's execution; queerly disagreeing with each as they each assert their presence in the dance. the queer-made of "11" emerges from the fizzy and mysterious montage of method that constitutes its whole. morrow makes a queer world in his dance, where his ostensibly straight b-boy can collide with his selves as a contemporary dancer, former catholic alter boy, and shepard fairey-admiring activist in a dance of unlikely affiliation. - Thomas DeFrantz, page 174-175 of QUEER DANCE-Meanings and Makings edited by Clare Croft
Festival first-timer James Morrow of Salem, Mass., is one of five artists bringing work from out of state. Morrow first learned of the fest over a year ago when he performed at Sam Houston State University. In his solo work, “I met the soul walking along my path,” he explores the “different ways patriarchal culture keeps men from knowing themselves” through a style that combines modern dance with B-boying, or break dancing. “Patriarchal culture continues to tell the male population that what is most valuable about them is their strength, aggression and ability to dominate their environment,” Morrow said. “Through moments of violence and vulnerability I’m pushing through these levels of conditioning in order to find modes of expression. Being introduced to dance and B-boying really helped me find ways to say things that I couldn’t with words. Articulating my feelings is a practice for me, just like heading into the studio to work on movement.” Why bring this work in particular to Austin? “I believe it’s a good representation of my artistic oeuvre. … It feels accessible to many and revolves around a topic that is personal but perhaps reaches out beyond me.” This sentiment gets exactly at what Hamrick hopes the festival will accomplish — to make modern dance accessible to a larger community in Austin, and to unify the city’s artists around a single event.- Claire Christine Spera, THE STATESMAN, TX
The pièce de résistance was truly the finale dedicated to the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando entitled “Stakes is High.” The dance consisted of three parts. The first told the story of two characters moving with constriction, experiencing insecurity and anger within themselves and with each other. The tension dispels and the characters find strength in the community of a large group of high energy dancers who move freely and without inhibition. Dancers begin to fall and the music shifts. They begin to move with more synchronization making gestures of prayer and confusion. Their despair is apparent but their solidarity is unshaken. The piece earned the most enthusiastic ovation of the night.
This production, led by Levy and supremely supported by Katie McCaughan, Tiffany S. Santerio, Emily Cargill, Bliss Kohlmyer, James Morrow, and Mikey Rioux, has continued the great modern dance tradition of not merely reflecting our culture but allowing us to engage more deeply though the physical symbolism that dance allows. It facilitates a deeper way to process the Orlando tragedy that only “Stakes is High” choreographer James Morrow and the Jacksonville Dance Theatre can consistently deliver. - Katherine Hobbs EU Jacksonville
Third in Saturday’s program was ‘Eleven Years After’ from Joel Hall Dancers. Both costumed and choreographed by James Morrow, the piece comprised of five female dancers in loose dark pants, shirtless tops that looked like they had stiff buttons- like those on a straight jacket- up the middle, barefoot, with swinging ponytails on the top of their heads. Based on the concepts of perfection and perdition, the stage was dark with pools of overhead spotlight. It looked like the performers were deep underground, in a well or sewer. There was something unsettling about the relationships between both the interacting couple during the old timey and effectively creepy ‘Do it again’ piece of music, and the trio of women in increasingly fast gesture, grasping the sides of their heads with the sounds of rain falling. There was an odd conclusion of three dancers executing peppy, basic hip-hop which felt like a falsely happy ending to an otherwise distorted piece. The dancers were very strong in movement that used groundwork and partnering but the musical selection was distracting and chaotic, going from Opera for a Small Room to DJ Kotchy and three other diverse sounds. It was moody and eye-catching, but without unifying factors of movement or music, the overall effect was an oversaturation of ‘new and different’ without satisfying resonance.
James Morrow, now teaching in Massachusetts, honors the memory of dancer Paul Christiano in the solo "I met my soul walking along the path." In an intense, peculiar, riveting performance set to Michael Wall's cover of Nick Lowe's "The Beast in Me" and Roberta Flack's "We May Never Meet Again," Morrow embodies both mourner and lost one, at times channeling Christiano's kinetic flashes. Directing his focus into the wings or up to the skies, he seemingly strains to connect with someone not quite visible to him or to us. - Laura Molzahn Chicago Tribune IL
James Morrow’s I met my soul walking along the path premiered early in 2015 as a group piece for Chicago Dance Crash, reimagined for HCCDF as a solo and dedicated to the memory of Paul Christiano. The subtleties are what counted here: Morrow’s sometimes pedestrian movement, the soft articulation of his fingers, a beat up blazer and an Atari shirt (perhaps a nod to Christiano’s 2010 ADHDivas), and his gaze into the wings as the delicate score sang of a “tomorrow that may never come.”Lauren Warnecke- ARTS INTERCEPT IL
"Chicago Dance Crash harkens back to their urban roots for their last formal show until December. Before the break though, they’ve brought in several choreographers and friends with styles as fresh as their own for a solid repertory send off.... Also premiering a new work is Chicago native James Morrow with “Stakes Is High.” Morrow, who is now a professor at Salem State University, was also the creative inspiration for Crash more than a decade ago." -Michelle Meywes The Chicagoist IL
"A new work by James Morrow — mastermind of Chicago's Instruments of Movement in the mid-2000s, now a professor at Salem State University, just north of Boston — likewise pays homage to the company's roots. At one time or another, Deahr, producing director Mark Hackman and former artistic director Kyle Terry all danced with Instruments of Movement "Crash openly and admittedly tried to build off what Jim does," Deahr says.
Morrow describes his "Stakes Is High" as "blurring the lines between contemporary movement and urban aesthetics," adding that, though it references violence and the fragility of life, it's still "a feel-good piece, mostly about the dancers being present onstage with each other."
Asked about the Crash dancers these days, Morrow is momentarily speechless. Eventually he says, "Oh man! They're really incredibly versatile! They've grabbed onto that fusion idea and taken it to a really good place."- Laura Molzahn Chicago Tribune, IL
"Kitchen Sink, performed by Jacksonville Dance Theater and choreographed by Rebecca R. Levy, was dark and gentle, and full of heartache, ushered in by Patsy Cline. A couple, danced elegantly by Levy and James Morrow, got together and broke apart and got back together only to break up again. It was the break-up they were addicted to, the space between each other. They were activated by wanting each other and dysfunctional when they had each other."
- Lydia Hance The Dance Dish TX
- Lydia Hance The Dance Dish TX
"Schroeder, on the other hand, simply said to his friend and choreographer, “Hey, Jim (James Morrow), do you want to hang out in Minneapolis and do a piece for me?” Yet watching a video clip of Morrow and him dancing side by side, it is undeniable that while Schroeder’s outer approach may be more casual, his art is just as “honest and beautiful and life-changing” as Ober’s piece.." - Lianna Matt The Wake MN
"Paul Matteson‘s Take It OVER is a trio for him, James Morrow, and Jennifer Pollins with Phil Dupont on piano. A Bessie-awarded dancer from his time with David Dorfman and Lisa Race, he’s sharpened his performance practice with Bill T. Jones in the past few years. Take It OVER digs into richly interpersonal textures while offering a highly satisfying blend of breathy release and vigorous partnering." - Maura Donohue CULTUREBOT NY
Kris, a wheelchair basketball and track athlete for many years, brings an athleticism and sense of fun to the floor. He performs one dance with various pieces and part of his wheelchair, balancing on the frame, spinning the wheels, spinning on top of the wheels.....creating a sense of freedom and flight and movement that is so far from the terminology of "confined to a wheelchair" and "wheelchair-bound" that it seems the perfect time to permanently erase them from our vocabulary.- Linda Mastandrea ChicagoNow.com IL
"Early in the piece, DeFrantz read out a card that commanded, “Disrobe.” Most of the performers stripped off a layer. When DeFrantz again commanded “disrobe,” James Morrow, the one man in the performance, went all the way. His nakedness was disarming and charming. Watching Morrow’s penis flopping happily against his stomach, and watching him seem to feel liberated rather than embarrassed by his nakedness, was quite lovely. His naked presence also echoed Kohler dancing while wearing the harness and dildo from the evening before, and commented profitably on the construction of sex." - Jill Dolan The Feminist Spectator NJ
"Morrow, who performed his dance during the second half of the evening simultaneously with Trentham in Toronto, delivered a similarly transformative emotional journey. He lay down on a bed covered with dirt, which spilled onto the floor and eventually became its own sort of prop for Morrow's melancholic fancies. These eventually turned into something like Taravella's ebullience -- each dancer seemed to make a journey toward the other." - Colin Dabkowski The Buffalo News NY
"James Morrow explodes in 'Four Mad Humours' Four Mad Humours—running Thursday through Sunday at the Viaduct Theatre—is a bi-national, media-heavy piece created by Gerry Trentham of Toronto’sPounds Per Square Inch company." - Laura Molzahn WBEZ91.5
"The most riveting example, aside from the crows' individual gestures and movements, involves the sections where Jim Morrow's taut prisoner writhes, dodges and vibrates in agony in a cold interrogation room while the intolerable memories of his life unspool again and again." - Bryan Woods Indy Weekly, NC..
"The program also featured the debut of Chicago choreographer James Morrow's "Passing Me By," a hip-hop infused quartet. Morrow is on his own quest to marry hip-hop and modern concert dance. This piece fluidly joins sculpted balletic shapes with the crouching poses and tangled body language of breakdancing. Morrow and Benjamin Law demonstrate a deftness for smoothly merging the two in performance without resorting to easy visual
- tricks." - Lucia Mauro Chicago Tribune, IL
"Morrow's Right as Rain--which features an "angel" in a black gown with book pages stapled to her hem--tells a story about what Morrow calls "the evolution of the community through the gift of knowledge." - Laura Molzahn Chicago Reader, IL.
"Jan Bartoszek of Hedwig Dances delves into the dark side of human nature as she brings to life Spanish artist Francisco Goya's etchings. A bawdy pantomime by three couples in Enlightenment-era satins and ruffles skipping around to Bach's music grows into a brutal seduction. The dancers wear masks by local puppeteer Blair Thomas, to grotesque, eerie effect. James Morrow's duet of conquest with Kirsty MacKellar flits between innocent flirtation and the looming threat of violence." -Lucia Mauro Chicago Tribune IL
"Morrow's ultimately disappointing "Right as Rain" is too deliberately unfathomable in its out-there imagery. But its stark drama of a New Age tribe overseen by a kind of matriarchal storyteller is fraught with haunting tableaux and is nicely executed, including its use of juvenile dancers." - Sid Smith Chicago Tribune, IL
"Beautiful dynamite" was what Fred Astaire called Cyd Charisse--and Instruments of Movement artistic director James Morrow borrowed the expression for this program, performed by his mostly female troupe and dominated by several pieces focused on women or gender relations." - Laura Molzahn Chicago Reader, IL.
"His Can You Dig It is a generation-spanning celebration of funk and social criticism using music by James Brown's JB's, and texts by KRS-One, Public Enemy, and Mos Def. There's an edge to this piece, which includes literal soapbox speeches and alludes to ongoing wars on poverty, drugs, and crime. But Morrow's fundamental optimism and the get-down dancing keep gloom and doom at a distance" - Laura Molzahn Chicago Reader, IL.
"Beginning lyrically enough to showcase a pas de deux, the electronic music soon slurred into the static of an LP rubbed the wrong way. Six female dancers executed center stage solos and reacted to the disharmony as though electric shocks were pulsating through their bodies. Grouping in pods of two or three around prone figures, they ebbed and flowed like an approaching and receding tide."- Susan Weinrebe ExploreDance.com, IL.