Head of Dance, Theater, Dance & Media
Senior Lecturer, Theater, Dance & Media
Jill Johnson is the Director of Dance at the Harvard Dance Center, Senior Lecturer and Head of Dance for Theater, Dance & Media, and Artistic Director for the Harvard Dance Project. A veteran of the dance field, Johnson has appeared in more than 50 tours and taught for dance companies and colleges on five continents. An honors graduate of the National Ballet School, she was a soloist with The National Ballet of Canada and principal dancer and researcher with Ballet Frankfurt.
A world-renowned expert on choreographer William Forsythe, Johnson has been a close collaborator of Forsythe’s for three decades. She stages Forsythe's ballets on companies worldwide, including The Paris Opera Ballet, La Scala, The Norwegian National Ballet, Alterballetto, Netherlands Dans Theater, Scottish Ballet, Finnish National Ballet, The National Ballet of Canada, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Batsheva Dance Company, American Ballet Theatre, San Francisco Ballet, and Boston Ballet.
At Harvard, Johnson has choreographed many original works for students including The Art of Survival, for Harvard's Observance of September 11 a collaboration between the Mahindra Center for Humanities and the American Repertory Theater; RE: RE: RE: a dance installation; and works which were a part of curricular courses: The Sound of Distance in Itself, Dog in a Sweater, Paper Wing and SEESAW, LOOK UP, Degrees of Difference, and for the Harvard Dance Project, WHAT MOVES YOU? with Francesca Harper and Mario Zambrano, and WUNDER with artist-in-residence Sidra Bell.
She also choreographs for film, television, theater and opera productions, notably, a series of dance film shorts for Bravo arts channel in Canada, a featured performance in Forsythe's Clear House Dance, music videos for German techno artist Sven Vaeth and American singer-songwriter David Poe, David Michalek’s Slow Dancing and Slow Dancing/Trio A, and PBS's Poetry in America series with cellist Yo-Yo Ma and actor Cynthia Nixon. For American Repertory Theater she choreographed the opera Crossing and served as movement director for Eve Ensler’s play In the Body of the World in Boston and Manhattan Theater Club in New York City.
Johnson has served as a faculty member and designed curricula for Princeton University, Barnard College at Columbia University, The Juilliard School, New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, The Joffrey School, The New School University, The Ailey School, the YoungArts Foundation, and is a founding collaborator of the Movement Invention Project (MIP) in New York where she has also been Choreographer-In-Residence. Residencies have included The New School University and Baryshnikov Arts Center in New York City. She has taught master classes at Yale University, and Ohio State University where she collaborated on the award-winning OSU/Forsythe Company web-based project Synchronous Objects.
Her awards include the Peter Dwyer Scholarship and the Loewen, Ondaatje, McCutcheon Award for most outstanding effort and achievement in dance at Canada’s National Ballet School; Balletanz Magazine International, Annual Critics' Awards: Most Outstanding Dancer; Time Out New York, Best Choreography in New York, Honorable Mention List for The Copier; Communication Arts Interactive Annual Award for Synchronous Objects. She is the recipient of Harvard’s Star Family Prize for Excellence in Faculty Advising.
Recent collaborations include those with the Paris Opera Ballet, Boston Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Dries Van Noten and the Louvre Musee des Arts Decoratif, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Mikhail Baryshnikov. She has garnered worldwide critical acclaim as a co-collaborator and featured performer in William Forsythe’s new full-length work A Quiet Evening of Dance which premiered at Sadler’s Well’s Theater in London and Melbourne International Arts Festival in October 2018. Johnson will continue to perform in a worldwide tour of the work in 2021/22.