Artist profile – ‘punk ballerina’ Karole Armitage

Karole Armitage is Director of Armitage Gone! Dance an 11-member company based in New York. She was rigorously trained in classical ballet and began her professional career in 1973 as a member of the Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève, Switzerland, a company devoted exclusively to the repertory of George Balanchine. In 1976, she was invited to join Merce Cunningham’s company where she remained for five years, performing leading roles in Cunningham’s landmark works.

Alongside Armitage’s more leftfield work, she is also known for having choreographed the videos for Madonna’s Vogue in 1991 and Michael Jackson’s In the Closet video in 1992.

Through her unique and acute knowledge of the aesthetic values of Balanchine and Cunningham, Armitage has created her own ‘voice’ in classical and contemporary dance. Armitage is inspired by disparate, non-narrative sources, from twentieth-century physics, to sixteenth-century Florentine fashion, to pop culture and new media.

Branded a ‘punk ballerina’ in the ’80s, Armitage merged classical dance with punk’s wall of sound, shocking audiences in New York. Next week, she returns to London for the first time since 1985, with her 1981 signature work Drastic-classicism performed to avant-garde pioneer Rhys Chatham’s clangorous score, played live by five guitarists amidst the dancers.

Karole Armitage, Photo: Terry Stevenson

See Armitage Gone! Dance at Southbank Centre as part of Dance Umbrella 2011 on 11 & 12 October. Get tickets here. 


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