Marion Scott

Marion Scott is an award-winning choreographer who has been praised for her organic linking of mood, sound, choreography and lighting, resulting in a wide spectrum of unique and evocative work. As a young dancer she was called “rare and wonderful” and “a brilliant technician”.  Her background reads like a Who’s Who in modern dance.  She studied with Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, Charles Weidman, Helen Tamiris and Daniel Nagrin, Jose Limon, Hanya Holm, and Anna Sokolow.  She danced in the companies of Martha Graham and Humphrey-Weidman, was assistant to Helen Tamiris, and was leading dancer in the Tamiris-Nagrin Company.  For twenty years, Marion headed her own professional dance company in New York City, which made annual appearances there and toured throughout the country.  In 1963, she was awarded the Doris Humphrey Fellowship at Connecticut College.  At that time, it was the only existing award in modern dance for choreography.

In 1969, Marion came to UCLA, where she was a Professor of Dance and Resident Choreographer of the UCLA Dance Company presenting choreography nationally and internationally until her retirement in 1986. The university, in 1983, awarded Marion a research grant to study masked dance and trance in Bali, Java and Japan.  While in Bali she commissioned a master artisan to make three contemporary masks representing the creative, the destructive, and the balancing energies in the universe.  The maskmaker Ida Bagus Anom and the choreographer collaborated closely.  The result was “Truine’, a dance featured at the Olympic Arts Mask Festival and Kaleidoscope Festivals in Los Angeles.

Another collaboration came in 1979 – this time between Marion and Shirley Clarke, the Academy Award winning filmmaker.  They created an hour-long film,”Four Journeys into Mystic Time”, which used innovative techniques to present four of Marion’s dances.  The film was invited to be shown at that year’s Venice Bienalle Film Festival, and at the 1979 New York Dance Film Festival.  One segment of the film, called “1,2,3”. won first prize in the Most Innovative category.

Marion’s works, described as “remarkably absorbing”, “compelling” and as having “enormous dramatic impact”, include: “Sevenfold” (1973), “Mysterium” (1975), “1,2,3” (1977), “Initiation” (1978), “Many Paths” (1980), “Underglow” and “Fine Line” (1981), “Triune” (1984), “Legend” and “Psalm” (1984). From 1985-1987, Marion formed Visions Inter-Arts, presenting her own works in addition to Rachel Rosenthal, Emily Conrad, and upcoming performers Hae Kyung Lee, Angelia Leung, Peggy Cicierska, and Annamaura Silverblatt.

In 1999, Marion, working collaboratively with Producer Roberta Wolin, began the Spirit Dance Series. With “Spirit Dances I”, “an unusual, stimulating program…”,  Lewis Segal, L.A. Times, 11/1/99,  she returned to active performing and producing.  Spirit Dances 2: The Crones, A Celebration of Life was  “… the glory of expression through dance.”  Victoria Looseleaf, L.A. Times, 5/8/00.   In “Spirit Dances 3: Yin-Yang”, “… Scott brought it all together in the final moments of the 45-minute piece with a touching, wise-elder moment.”  Jennifer Fisher, L.A. Times, 11/29/00  Scott was the recipient of the 2001  Lester Horton Award for Lifetime Achievement in Dance. She was nominated for the 2003 Horton Award for Outstanding Performance and Production of a Series for Spirit Dances 7: Journey Towards Healing.

Roberta Wolin-Tupas’s  Speech at Marion Scott’s Memorial

(a.k.a. Wolin, Wolin-Manker)

Highways Performance Space, June 14, 2009

Dear Family, Friends, Colleagues,

I have been blessed to have had Marion Scott in my life as a mentor, teacher, colleague, collaborator, spiritual guide, and dear friend for 25 years.

I met Marion in 1983 when I was a graduate student in Choreography and Performance at UCLA.  Marion was lead Choreography Professor in the Graduate Program, a position she held for 17 years.  She was honest, intuitive, perceptive, and had the ability to nurture and develop the uniqueness of each student. Many went on the become renown choreographers and performers.

Marion had the uncanny ability to find the moments of truth when viewing a work of art.  I remember showing her my solo Resolute.  Three quarters of the way through she said, “There is the moment. Start right there. Throw everything else out and start again.”

After receiving my Master’s Degree, and I formed R Dance Company with my dance partner Robert Whidbee. Marion contacted me after seeing one of our concerts and said, “I can take you further”. She then rented studio space on Santa Monica Blvd, and gave me free choreography classes for the next half a year.

Marion was always teaching.  I remember taking her to the hospital a number of years ago.  While we sat in the waiting room, she pulled out a book of paintings by Georgio Keefe. “Here” she said, “what picture speaks to you”. We spent time looking at the beautiful flowers and talking about abstraction in art.  I picked a picture of a light pink and dark purple iris. Then I took the same book to my partner Robert.  “Here” I said, “what picture speaks to you”. He selected a purple petunia. Together we used these images to create our duet Time to Rend.

Because I loved Marion, because I believed in her, and because she always believed in me, it
was my great pleasure to give back to her. I devoted the next twenty years of my life  helping
her in any way she needed, to continue her teaching, her choreography, and her performing. I
assisted with Mentor Choreography classes at SMC, helped produce the Mentor Choreography
Concerts, assisted with Spirit Dances Workshops, and produced, choreographed, and performed
in her acclaimed Spirit Dances Series.

In 1999, Marion called to talk about a new idea: Spirit Dances.  She was interested in creating works in the moment: a drastic departure from the set choreography she created in the past.

In Marion’s words

I try to be transparent for whatever spirit might come through.
I wait sometimes even after I have begun to move to allow
whatever comes in that is beyond my personal self. I aim to
be a vessel through which spirit can speak or pass. 

At first I was hesitant. Although  I had produced numerous concerts in the past, producing is an incredible commitment  Marion told me to just think about it  and that she would call back in a week.  A week later, Marion called, and I told her I would try it for a year. A year turned into nine years.

Arriving at my first Spirit Dance meeting/rehearsal.  Marion looked at me and said “What‘s the matter with you.  You look out of shape.  Get back in the studio and start working again”.  I said “Marion I am 49 now. I don’t really dance anymore.  I am just here to produce your concert.”  Marion said  “Nonsense, you are a beautiful dancer – you must also perform in my concert.”  I listened to her, and have been dancing ever since.

Working closely with Marion was very interesting. She was not someone who just settled for any detail.  She was a perfectionist in life and art. Together we sat for hours, pouring over the exact words for each statement, over each word in the press releases, each  image, the placement of words on a page, images on a flyer, the color, the shade of color, the program design, order of the pieces, names of pieces, development of dances, even the placement of a stamp on the postcard –every aspect of preparation was thought of as a work of art in itself;  carefully looked at, thought about, changed, revised, and changed again – the lovely costumes of Roxanne Steinberg, Ola Hudson, and others; the exquisite lighting of Eileen Cooley, the magnificent flyers of Betty Shimuska, the precise music editing of Olivier Ferrand,  the impeccable DVD creation by Kate Johnson.

Marion had a specific theme for each Spirit Dance Concert. The Spirit Dance cast rehearsed the concept of their pieces for approximately six months prior to a concert, one rehearsal a month, and then each artist created their own piece in the moment on stage. Only in the last three Spirit Dances concerts, did some of us begin to set our dances prior to the performance.

With Spirit Dances, “Marion showed the world that your creativity never stops, that what you have to offer only grows richer as time goes by. Her work serves as an inspiration to all generations. She is an artist who continued her journey throughout her lifetime, creating and performing until the year before her passing. Her last performance was at the age of 86.

It was an honor and a privilege to have worked with Marion Scott so closely.

She will always be a part of my life, my creative process, my choreography, my performing, and my teaching.

I leave you with Marion‘s words:

Each of us calls spirit in our own way.  It is elusive -
          like trying to catch the wind  It may come and go
                    It may possess.  It many guide.  It may soar
                              Be patent…wait… invite it to enter.

Spirit Dances 1

conceived & directed by Marion Scott
produced by Roberta Wolin
performed by Linda Gold, Sen Hea Ha, Michael Skelton, Marion Scott, Robert Whidbee, Roberta Wolin
October 29-31, 1999: Highways Performance Space

Spirit Dances 2: The Crones A Celebration of Life

conceived & directed by Marion Scott
produced by Roberta Wolin-Manker
performed by Kabbalah Bach, Nzingha Camara, Leonora Panich,  Jamaiel Shabaka, Allegra Snyder, Marion Scott, Herta Ware, Nanik Wenten, Medha Yodh
May 5-7, 2000: Highways Performance Space

Spirit Dances 3: Yin-Yang

conceived & directed by Marion Scott
produced
by Roberta Wolin-Manker
performed
by Kabbalah Bach, Don Bondi, Carmela Hermann, Jayvee Mai The Hiep, Marni Mahaffay, Kiha Lee, Craig Ng, Edgar Ovando, Maria Royce, Marion Scott, Diane Takamine, Robert Whidbee, Roberta Wolin-Manker
November 17-19, 2000: Highways Performance Space 

Spirit Dances 4: Solo

* note: this concert was not performed publicly
conceived & directed
by Marion Scott
produced by Roberta Wolin-Manker
performed
by Marion Scott

Spirit Dances 5: Masks as Intermediaries

conceived & directed by Marion Scott
produced
by Roberta Wolin-Manker
performed
by Kiha Lee, Craig Ng, Mary Lee Sanders, Marion Scott, Diane Takamine, Andrew Werderitsch, Nanik Wenten, I Nyoman Wenten, Robert Whidbee, Roberta Wolin-Manker
October 12-14, 2001: Highways Performance Space 

Spirit Dances 6: Inspired by Isadora

conceived and directed by Marion Scott
produced
by Roberta Wolin-Manker
performed by
Kathryne Cassis, Gabriela Cerda, Linda Gold, Marion Scott, Allegra Fuller Snyder, Diane Takamine, Anndrea Taylor, Roberta Wolin-Manker
June 14-16, 2002: Highways Performance Space

Spirit Dances 7: Journey Towards Healing

conceived and directed by Marion Scott
produced
by Roberta Wolin-Manker
performed
by Gary Bates, Emile Hassan Dyer, Kiha Lee, Craig Ng, Marion Scott, Allegra Fuller Snyder, Diane Takamine, Robert Whidbee, Roberta Wolin-Manker
March 21-24, 2003: Highways Performance Space
May 18, 2003, Strub Theater, Loyola Marymont University

Spirit Dances 8: Blank Canvas

conceived and directed by Marion Scott
produced by Roberta Wolin-Manker
performed by Gary Bates, Emile Hassan Dyer, Kiha Lee, Craig Ng, Marion Scott, Allegra Fuller Snyder, Diane Takamine, Robert Whidbee, Roberta Wolin-Manker
June 4-6, 2004, Highways Performance Space 

Spirit Dances 9: Courage Has Many Faces

* note: this version of the concert was not performed publicly
conceived and directed
by Roberta Wolin-Manker
produced by Roberta Wolin-Manker
performed
by Don Bondi, Emile Hassan Dyer, Ola Hudson, Kiha Lee, Craig Ng, Marion Scott, Allegra Fuller Snyder, Diane Takamine, Robert Whidbee, Roberta Wolin-Manker

Spirit Dances 10: Courage Has Many Faces

conceived and directed by Roberta Wolin-Manker
produced by Jamie Nichols
performed
by Don Bondi, Emile Hassan Dyer, Ola Hudson, Kiha Lee, Craig Ng, Marion Scott, Allegra Fuller Snyder, Diane Takamine, Robert Whidbee, Roberta Wolin-Manker
April 20-22, 2007, Highways Performance Space 

Dance History Project Articles
Pertaining to Marion Scott:

Categorized as: ARTIST, Artistic Director, Choreographer, Dancer, Teacher/Educator