Mark Morris Dance Group
Alim Qasimov, mugham vocals
Fargana Qasimova, mugham vocals
MARK MORRIS DANCE GROUP
Founded in New York in 1980, the internationally-renowned Mark Morris Dance Group (MMDG) has received “highest praise for their technical aplomb, their musicality, and their sheer human authenticity.” (Bloomberg News). MMDG spent three years in residence at Brussels’ Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie as Belgium’s national dance company, returning to the United States in 1991.
The Dance Group is distinguished as the only modern dance company with a commitment to live music at every performance, founding the MMDG Music Ensemble in 1996. MMDG also regularly collaborates with eminent musicians across genres, including cellist Yo-Yo Ma, mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe, jazz trio The Bad Plus, the London Symphony Orchestra, baroque orchestras Tafelmusik and Philharmonia Baroque, as well as opera companies such as The Metropolitan Opera and the English National Opera.
Community engagement is a vital component of the Dance Group. Through the organization’s Access/MMDG programming, it integrates opportunities for dance, music, talks, and education at its Brooklyn home, the Mark Morris Dance Center, as well as on tour around the world.
Inspired by his curiosity about the world and eager to forge connections across cultures, disciplines, and generations, cellist Yo-Yo Ma founded the nonprofit organization Silkroad in 1998. Through Silk Road Ensemble performances, the creation of new music, and programs for educators and teaching artists, Silkroad is committed to exploring the role of the arts in fostering cross-cultural understanding, deepening learning, and promoting innovation.
With a conviction that by exploring our differences we enrich our humanity, this community of globally minded artists, passionate learners, and cultural entrepreneurs strives to create unexpected connections, collaborations, and communities in pursuit of meaningful change. Recognizing every tradition as the result of successful innovation, Silkroad works at the edge where education, business, and the arts come together to spark new ways of looking at our world.
The Silkroad Ensemble was formed in 2000 as a way of bringing together innovative performers and composers representing traditions from around the world. Since that time, the Ensemble has been redefining music for 21st-century audiences. The group has been called “vibrant and virtuosic” by the Wall Street Journal, “one of the 21st century’s great ensembles” by the Vancouver Sun, and a “roving musical laboratory without walls” by the Boston Globe.
The Silkroad Ensemble performers and composers hail from more than 20 countries. Passionate about learning from one another’s traditions and incorporating them into their own artistic voices, these rooted explorers co-create art, performance, and ideas. Through engaging, high-energy programs, the Silk Road Ensemble draws on a rich tapestry of traditions that make up our shared cultural heritage, creating a new musical language—an engaging and accessible encounter between the familiar and the previously unknown.
Throughout Asia, Europe and North America, the Silkroad Ensemble has performed for more than 1.8 million people, in some of the world’s most lauded venues including Carnegie Hall, Suntory Hall, the Concertgebouw, and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Ensemble performances have also highlighted the Nobel Prize celebrations in Stockholm, the Sir Bani Yas Forum in the United Arab Emirates, the Special Olympics in Shanghai, the Lucerne Festival in Switzerland, and London’s BBC Proms.
The group has recorded six albums and released the Grammy-nominated The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble, a documentary by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Morgan Neville (20 Feet From Stardom). Learn more by visiting silkroadproject.org.
Alim Qasimov is a prominent mugham singer named a “Living National Treasure” of Azerbaijan. He has been passionate about mugham since his early childhood, but did not pursue a career in music until the age of nineteen, after various jobs as an agricultural worker and driver. Qasimov studied at the Asaf Zeynalli Music College (1978-1982) and the Azerbaijan University of Arts (1982-1989). His teacher was well-known mugham singer Aghakhan Abdullayev. Qasimov perceives and presents mugham not only as an ancient art and a part of Azerbaijan’s musical and cultural heritage but also as a constantly developing tradition. His performing style is unique, combining deep knowledge of centuries-old rules of mugham with challenging innovations, willingly juxtaposing mugham with other music styles, such as jazz and contemporary composition. Qasimov was awarded the International IMC-UNESCO Music Prize in 1999 in recognition of his musical contributions to world peace. Past winners of this prize include Yehudi Menuhin, Ravi Shankar, Olivier Messiaen and Daniel Barenboim. Qasimov’s numerous awards also include the title of the People’s Artist of Azerbaijan, the highest artistic rank in the country. On his 50th birthday in 2007, the President of Azerbaijan awarded Qasimov the Medal of Glory.
Fargana Qasimova, Alim Qasimov’s daughter and protégée, is an accomplished mugham singer. Her father has been the major influence in her life and career. Qasimova grew up with sounds of mugham and verses from the classical poetry of Azerbaijan and from the age of four, often performed along with her father at home and first joined him on tour at the age of sixteen. She studied mugham at the Azerbaijan National Conservatory (1996-2000) and performs frequently with Qasimov both in Azerbaijan and internationally and has earned recognition as a master of mugham. In 1999, Love’s Deep Ocean, a CD featuring Qasimov and Qasimova, was released by Network Medien in Frankfurt, Germany. In 2002 at the Women’s Voices Festival in Belgium, Qasimova made her first appearance as a soloist. She has performed with the Silk Road Ensemble and has been featured in the 53-minute-long documentary Meditation Day, produced in Belgium in 2006.