Molissa Fenley

Molissa Fenley

Fellow: Awarded 2008
Field of Study: Choreography

Competition: US & Canada

Mills College

Molissa Fenley was born in Las Vegas in 1954. She grew up in Nigeria, lived in Spain, and returned to the U.S. where she received a degree in dance from Mills College in 1975.  She moved to New York City that year and formed Molissa Fenley and Dancers in 1977.  Her 30-year career of choreographing and presenting her work has developed in cycles. During her first ten years (1977-1987) she focused on presenting group works, performed by herself and an ensemble of dancers. In the second ten years (1987-1997) her work shifted to solo performances created in collaboration with contemporary visual artists and composers. Now, in a third cycle, she is once again exploring the dynamics of ensemble work. 

Ms. Fenley’s choreographic works for her company include Energizer (1980), commissioned by Dance Theater Workshop; Gentle Desire (1981), commissioned by the American Dance Festival; Hemispheres (1983) and Geologic Moments (1986), both commissioned by the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival; Cenotaph (1985), commissioned by Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival and the recipient of a Bessie Choreography award; Esperanto (1985), and Separate Voices (1987), which both premiered at the Joyce Theater.  Recent works include On the Other Ocean (1997), Delta (2000), Sky Garden (2002), 331 Steps (2002), commissioned by the Joyce Theater, Water Courses (2003), Kuro Shio (2003), Lava Field (2004), Desert Sea (2005), and Patterns and Expectations (2005).

Solo works include States of Darkness (1988), commissioned by The American Dance Festival and the recipient of a Bessie Choreography award (Peter Boal, principal dancer with The New York City Ballet, was awarded a 2000 Bessie Performance award for his revival performance of State of Darkness); Provenance Unknown (1989), a commission by The Kitchen and Dance Chance; The Floor Dances (1989), commissioned by the DIA Art Foundation; Bardo (1990) and Pola’a (1996), commissioned by the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival;  Place (1992), commissioned by The Joyce Theater; and Witches’ Float (1993), commissioned by the Krannert Center at the University of Illinois.  Channel (1993), Sightings (1993), Nullarbor (1993), Tilliboyo/Escalay (1993), Sita (1995) and Trace (1997) all premiered at the Joyce Theater, and Regions (1995) premiered at the 92nd Street Y Harkness Dance Center.  Recent works include La Muse Menagere (1998), commissioned by Mills College; Tala (1998); Voices (1999), commissioned by the Theatre Artaud, San Francisco; Island (2000); Weathering (2000), commissioned by the Asian Cultural Council; and Sign/Landmark (2001), commissioned by the New National Theater, Tokyo.

Ms. Fenley’s work has been presented throughout the United States, South America, Europe, Australia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.  She has choreographed works for the Ohio Ballet (Feral, 1986); the Australian Dance Theatre (A Descent into the Maelstrom, 1986); the Deutsche Oper Ballet of Berlin (Bridge Dreams, 1994); the National Ballet School of Canada (Inner Enchantments, 1986); the Performing Dance Company at the University of Utah (Timbral Inventions, 1999, Escalay, 1999, and I and You Resemble Each Other, Now, 1999); Peter Boal (Waiting for Rain, 2002); the Korea/Japan Performing Arts Exchange Association (Kuro Shio, 2003); and Desert Sea (2005) for the Repertory Dance Theater, Salt Lake City.  Her work has also been performed by Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, Elisa Monte and David Brown, Dance Alloy, Young Soon Kim Dance Company, Peggy Baker Dance Projects, Richard Move, Felicia Norton, and Li Chiao-Ping.  Her work resides in the repertory companies of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, the University of Georgia at Athens, and Mills College in Oakland, California. 

Ms. Fenley is on the faculty of the dance department of Mills College and is in residence every spring semester.


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