Karole Armitage


Karole Armitage, known as the 'punk ballerina' is the Artistic Director of the New York-based Armitage Gone! Dance Company. She was rigorously trained in classical ballet and began her professional career as a member of the Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève, Switzerland (1973-1975), a company devoted exclusively to the repertory of George Balanchine who was director of the company at that time. In 1976, she was invited to join Merce Cunningham's company, where she remained for five years, (1975-1981) performing leading roles in Cunningham's landmark works. Through her unique and acute knowledge of the aesthetic values of Balanchine and Cunningham, Armitage has created her own "voice" in the dichotomy of classical and modern dance, and is seen by some critics as the true choreographic heir to the two masters of 20th century American dance.  In 2016, Armitage was honored with a Radcliffe Fellowship at Harvard University and a Simons Fellowship at The University of Kansas to study Native American Plains Culture with a focus on Pawnee, Kanza and Osage tribes. In 2017 she is beginning a muliti year Fellowship as an MIT Media Lab Directors Fellow.    

Armitage created her first piece in 1979, followed by the iconic Drastic-Classicism in 1981. Throughout the 80s, she led her own New York-based dance company, The Armitage Ballet. Commissions from the Paris Opera Ballet and American Ballet Theatre led to choreographic commissions in Europe throughout the 80s, 90s and into the early 2000s with projects that continue to this day. She has created new works on companies from The Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow to the Tasmanian Dance company including the Ballet de Monte Carlo, Lyon Opera Ballet, Ballet Nacional de Cuba, The Washington Ballet, The Boston Ballet, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, The Kansas City Ballet, The Greek National Company, The Bern Ballet, The Boston Ballet and Rambert Dance Company of London. Armitage served as director of the 45-member Ballet of Florence Italy (1996–2000) presenting classical repertoire, modern masters and contemporary works; directed the Biennale of Contemporary Dance in Venice (2004), and served as resident choreographer for the Ballet de Lorraine in France (2000–2004). After her company's successful season at the Joyce in 2004, Armitage's focus shifted to her New York-based company, Armitage Gone! Dance.

 Armitage is renowned for pushing the boundaries to create contemporary works that blend dance, music, visual art and science to engage in philosophical questions about the search for meaning. She joins a legacy of process-focused experiemntal dance that embraces the ballet and modern dance heritages as well. She is inspired by disparate, non-narrative sources, from 20th century physics, to 16th century Florentine fashion, to pop culture and new media. In her hands, the classic vocabulary is given a needed shock to its system, with speed, fractured lines, abstractions and symmetry countermanded by asymmetry. Music is her script and she has collaborated with contemporary and experimentalist composers such as John Luther Adams, Thomas Adès, Rhys Chatham, Terry Dame, Vijay Iyer, David Lang, Lukas Ligeti, Lois V Vierk and John Zorn. The scores can be marked by extreme lyricism as well as dissonance, noise and polyrhythms. The sets and costumes for her works are often designed by leading artists in the contemporary art world, including Karen Kilimnik, Jeff Koons, Vera Lutter, Brice Marden, David Salle and Phillip Taaffe. Her scientific collaborators include Dr. Brian Greene (Columbia University) and Dr. Paul Ehrlich (Stanford University). The full-length works on theoretical physics and climate change respectively were presented at the World Science Festival and in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life at the American Museum of Natural History.

Armitage’s work is at once both esoteric and popular, having choreographed two Broadway productions (Passing Strange and Hair, which garnered her a tony® nomination), videos for Madonna and Michael Jackson, several Merchant-Ivory films and Cirque du Soleil’s 2012 tent show, Amaluna. In 2016 she created a work for the Boston Ballet to Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew and Stravinsky’s Agon for the London Philharmonia conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen. As the 2016 Artistic Director of Italy’s Ravello Fesival for an evening of American Dance, Armitage invited New York City Ballet, Martha Graham Dance Company, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, William Forsythe, Richard Move and her company to participate in a survey of the techniques and philosophies of American Dance set into motion by Native Americans performing the Prairie Chicken Dance.

She has directed operas from the baroque and contemporary repertoire for prestigious houses of Europe, including Teatro di San Carlo in Naples, Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, the Lyric Opera in Athens, Het Muzik Theater in Amsterdam. She choreographed The Cunning Little Vixen in 2011 and A Dancer’s Dream in 2013 for the New York Philharmonic presented at Avery Fischer Hall at Lincoln Center and provided choreography for Marie Antoinette, by playwright David Adjmi, at the American Repertory Theatre Harvard and Yale Repertory Theater.

Her work has been the subject of three documentaries made for television: The South Bank Show (1985), directed by David Hinton and Wild Ballerina (1988), directed by Mark Kidel. Armitage is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship. In 2009, she was awarded France’s most prestigious award, Commandeur dans l'orde des Arts et des Lettres. She is the 2012 recipient of the artist-in-residence grant at the Chinati Foundation, founded by Donald Judd in Marfa, Texas, and received an honorary Doctorate of the Arts from the University of Kansas in 2013. In 2016 she was honored with both a Radcliffe Fellowship at Harvard University and a Simons Fellow at The University of Kansas to study Native American Plains Culture. Armitage is currently an MIT Media Lab Directors Fellow.

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