Choreographer Jon Morris: Let's play

by Josh McTaggart

"He's an artist who possesses a formidable kinematic mastery of the body," said Jill Johnson, director of the dance program at the Office for the Arts at Harvard. She was talking about choreographer and artistic director of The Windmill Factory, Jon Morris, who will offer a Master Class 5:30 p.m. Thurs., Feb. 28 at the Harvard Dance Center. We asked him about his company, his process and the workshop he will be delivering at Harvard.

Can you explain the founding principles behind your company, Windmill Factory?

I had been working in the theater for years, and I was disillusioned. I had become fascinated by what was happening in the art world. Art was moving out of galleries and into the streets. So I began to ask myself: "How do I play in public space and activate that space?" My creative mind went to that place, so I made a break from theater in 2008 and founded Windmill Factory in 2009. We try to create an interactive experience where the audience is king.

What does an art collective mean to you as an artist?

I love collaboration, and I love creating with people. I see what we do as a sand box for people to come and play in. We need these people; it’s more fun. The sand box is a lonely place when you’re on your own.

How do you and your collaborators create pieces?

We invite five artists, programmers, architects, all types of people, to come together for a weekend conference, much like a TED Talk and a brain storming session in one, which leads to a presentation of a new piece. If the piece goes on to be created, those five artists are the ones to create it.

What performance artists inspire or intrigue you?

When I was performing in Fuerza Bruta in Sao Paulo I discovered the work of Eduardo Srur. He put bright orange life jackets on stoic war hero statues across the city. It was a beautiful, playful gesture, but also a very poetic metaphor about global warming. Or about saving art.

What do you hope people will take away from your Learning From Performers workshop?

I love to have people come away with a very playful look at acting and performance. People get so caught up in the emotional sensibility on stage. They forget theater is a game you play on stage between actors and the audience. During the workshop we will play a lot of really tough games that use childlike imagery. If we can evoke a childlike image on the stage, the audience will enjoy it. If you’re boring, then you haven’t done a good enough job.

Read more about Jon Morris in The Crimson.

[Caption: Jon Morris]