Last week, I had a quick window to interview iconic choreographer Mark Morris, who is coming to On the Boards this weekend. I was told he does not like to talk about his work, particularly new work. I was told I should not air my speculations that Mikhail Baryshnikov would be performing with his company this weekend.
So I decided to ask him about an issue that he—a choreographer who left Seattle in the 1970s, rose to international stardom, and returns to his hometown every year—is uniquely qualified to talk about: how the relationship between Seattle (and other cities at the periphery) and New York (the center) has changed in the past 30-plus years.
Normally, that is a very dull question—all this local hand-wringing about what we mean, and how we measure up, and whether we're good enough out here in the podunk hinterlands.
But Morris, who fled these hinterlands and has been back and forth in the years since, might be one of the few people who is both qualified and able to say something interesting about it.
So what did he say? He began with: "Hmm. I don't know how to answer that. Seattle's thing is like all middle-sized cities. The goal is to have a 'world class'—that horrible term—ballet, symphony, etc."
He moved on to: "Everyone knows that people in Seattle are very proud of Seattle—and that’s not a compliment."
He ended somewhere around: "I may sound cunty, but I’m doing it fondly."
And now that I've had that conversation about Seattle and the center and the periphery with Mark Morris, who confirmed the dullness of the question, I never need to have it again.