Sarah Morrison (Cleveland, OH) is the Director of MorrisonDance, a unique performing company that has brought dance to alternative settings with LEAPING INTO THE NET! (1997), the world’s first modern dance performance broadcast live online; ERIE SIRENS (1997, 1998), a lakeshore collaboration with sand-sculptor Scott Radke; INSIDE (2006), a groundbreaking performance collaboration with BrainMaster featuring live brainwave projections in the converted Cleveland Trust Rotunda building; three internationally acclaimed collaborations with NASA commissioned by the Ingenuity Cleveland Festival: RENDEZVOUS (2007), WALKING ON OTHER WORLDS (2008), and CRYSTALLINE (2009); and two “vertical dances” utilizing rock-climbing techniques in the Hamilton Collaborative, a converted Cleveland warehouse where her company resides. In addition to her unique location-inspired work, Morrison has created over 75 original staged dances that have been performed in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, New York, Virginia, California, Georgia, Italy, England, and Mexico. Morrison has also choreographed for other organizations including VERB Ballets, Dancing Wheels, Food for Thought (Gibney Dance), the Beck Center for the Arts, Baldwin Wallace Musical Theatre Summer Program, and Cuyahoga Heights High School, and ProDanza Italia, among others.
A 2009 recipient of the Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award, Morrison began her professional dance career at 16 years old with Lee Harper and Dancers in Atlanta, Georgia. Upon receiving a scholarship from Case Western Reserve University for her dance choreography, Morrison continued her dance studies under Kathryn Karipides and Kelly Holt, in addition to discovering a passion for behavioral research in the Department of Psychological Sciences. After four intensive years, Morrison graduated summa cum laude as a Phi Beta Kappa with a Master of Arts degree in Psychology and Bachelor of Arts degrees in both dance and psychology, with a minor in Biology. Since then, she has made her home in Northeast Ohio, where she founded and directs MorrisonDance. Her creations with MorrisonDance have been awarded support by the Ohio Arts Council, Cuyahoga Arts and Culture, Neighborhood Connections (a program of the Cleveland Foundation), the Puffin Foundation, and the Robert Rauschenberg SEED grant, an unsolicited, anonymously nominated three-year award recognizing the contribution to the vibrancy of the community. In 2019, Morrison was honored by OhioDance for her outstanding contributions to the artform.
Morrison has served as an adjunct faculty member in the Creative Arts Division at Cuyahoga Community College since 2007 and has been a guest lecturer in the Department of Psychological Sciences at Case Western Reserve University, and the Department of Psychology at Baldwin Wallace University and Notre Dame College. She has taught undergraduate courses in Modern, Ballet, and Jazz Technique, Dance Appreciation (History), Sports and Exercise Psychology, Sensation and Perception, Learning and Memory, Lifespan Development, and Research Design and Analysis. Morrison has additionally taught master classes and workshops in composition and improvisation at the University of Akron, Cleveland Institute of Music, Universidad de Verecruzana, Kent Dance Ensemble, Beck Center for the Arts, Cleveland Public Theatre, Dancing Wheels, YWCA Early Learning Center, Shore Cultural Center, Merrick House, and throughout numerous school districts in Northeast Ohio with extensive residencies in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. Morrison has been a roster teaching artist with Center for Arts Inspired Learning (Young Audiences of Northeast Ohio) since 2007 and has served as Master Artist for their Artworks program, an apprentice program for high school students.
On the research side, Morrison spent 13 years working with the Department of Psychological Sciences at Case Western Reserve University and Boston University in Visual Perception funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Alzheimer’s Association. Working with Primary Investigator, Dr. Grover C. Gilmore, Morrison co-authored findings from these research projects for publication in several scientific journals including Cortex and Vision Research, in book chapters, and at conferences nationally and internationally. She went on to act as a research coordinator for the Neurological Institute at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, coordinating the start-up of a longitudinal NIH-funded research project examining the impact of exercise on the prevention or delay of dementia. In 2022, Morrison joined the team at Dance/USA as their Director of Research, where she applies her passion and experience for research in service of the national dance ecosystem.
Morrison always enjoys applying her in-depth experience in both the arts and the sciences to her work as a creator, performer, researcher, and educator.
- Born in Milan, Italy to American parents and lived in Tehran, Iran, and London, England before moving to Atlanta, Ga.
- First dance class at the Atlanta Ballet.
- First dance class at Lee Harper & Dancers where she fell in love with dancing when teacher Jan Duffy brought out the “box of scarves.” Sarah spent her childhood making up dances with her brother her cousins and her neighbors, often exploring “stunt” work that did not always end well. She was no stranger to broken bones.
- Studied and performed with Lee Harper & Dancers’ “DancerKids” & “Just Us” two youth companies designed to encourage creativity and expression through dance and including performing across Atlanta.
- Began performing and teaching dance professionally with Lee Harper & Dancers at the age of 16 with her first professional performance on stage with the Atlanta Symphony.
- Sarah moved to Cleveland, OH as a recipient of a Creative Achievement Award Scholarship for her Choreography to attend Case Western Reserve University. During her time there, she double majored in Theatre Arts (studying dance with Kathryn Karipides and Kelly Holt) and Psychology and received a Master’s in Psychology through the Integrated Graduate Studies program. Sarah received funding several summers in a row to study with the Pat Graney Dance Company, Liz Lerman Dance Exchange (D.C.), London Contemporary Dance Centre, the Laban Center (UK), and ProDanza Italia (Italy).
- Danced as an intern with Cleveland’s Repertory Project and performed choreography by David Dorfman and Bridgeman/Packer Dance at the Aranoff Center in Columbus, OH.
- Worked on research projects with Dr. Grover C. Gilmore in the Perception Lab in the Department of Psychological Sciences at CWRU, and Dr, Alice Cronin-Golomb in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Boston University and co-authored several scientific publications and international presentations.
- Created, produced, directed, and performed in “Leaping Into the NET!” the world’s first modern dance concert simultaneously broadcast on the internet. James Levin of Cleveland Public Theatre supported her project, and this is when Sarah decided to make Cleveland her creative and permanent home and founded MorrisonDance.
Finds studio home in historic “Union Gospel Press” building in the artistic neighborhood of Tremont in Cleveland. Contributes to research to convert 300,000 square foot historic structure into an artistic community.
- Presented choreography in the “Food For Thought” series hosted by Gina Gibney in Cleveland.
- Created, produced, directed, and performed “Erie Sirens” a performance on the shore of Lake Erie in collaboration with Scott Radke and his sand-sculptures. Supported by the Puffin Foundation.
- Annual performances in the Cleveland Public DanceWorks series supported by Cuyahoga Arts and Culture.
- Finds new studio home in Ohio City at 42nd and Lorain Ave.
- Incorporated MorrisonDance as a 501(c)(3) organization.
- Becomes a mother to Isabella Radke.
- Ingenuity Cleveland: Created, directed, and performed “Inside” with an EEG transmitting live brainwave projections in a performance in the Cleveland Trust Rotunda in collaboration with Brain Master.
- Ingenuity Cleveland: Created, directed and performed in “Rendezvous” in collaboration with David Defelice and NASA Glenn, and through conversation and research with astronaut Pamela Melroy.
- Adjunct Faculty in the Creative Arts Division at Cuyahoga Community College.
- Beginning of long-term partnership with Center for Arts Inspired Learning to develop and share dance education within the Ohio educational curriculum. Recognized for developing family dance program for parents and toddlers called “Fit Fun Families” inspired by Sarah’s dancing with her daughter while teaching a Sport and Exercise Psychology class that presented research suggesting that active children become active adults. Sarah thought that by dancing with your children, you could find a fun, bonding way to encourage an active lifestyle. This developed into “Fit Fun Frolic,” a popular dance program in preschools throughout NE Ohio.
- Ingenuity Cleveland: Created, directed and performed “Walking On Other Worlds” using the enhance Zero-gravity locomotion simulator on-site at NASA Glenn, and collaborating with composer James Bonney for an original musical score. https://www.youtube.com/morrisondance
- Ingenuity Cleveland: Created, directed and performed “Crystalline” filmed on-site at the NASA Glenn Icing Research Tunnel.
- Sarah receives the Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award.
Sarah invited to improvise with “This is Spinal Tap” during their “Unwigged and Unplugged” tour at Playhouse Square.
- Developed an annual summer program called “The City is Our Playground” where dancers perform in alternative settings all over Cleveland using “choreovisation” (combining choreographed movements with site-specific improvisation). Partially supported by the Cleveland Foundation’s Neighborhood Connections program and by Cuyahoga Arts and Culture.
- MorrisonDance receives an anonymously nominated Rauschenberg SEED grant and convenes with other similar national organizations at the Rauschenberg studios in Captiva, FL for 3 annual arts summits.
- Sarah invited to improvise with Bobby McFerrin during his Cleveland performance at Playhouse Square.
- Creates new studio home in converted Osborne Industrial Complex.
- Adjunct Faculty in the Department of Psychology at Baldwin Wallace University.
- Sarah works with composer Braden Pontoli to create and produce “In the Space of Dreams.”
Sarah joins the Ohio Arts Council Teaching Artist Roster.
- MorrisonDance works with Salina Bartinuk-Andrews (Elektra from American Gladiators) to get dancers trained in rock climbing and belay techniques in preparation for vertical dancing program Leaping off the Wall.
- Sarah receives OhioDance award for Outstanding Contributions to the Advancement of the Artform.
- COVID-19 results in paused creativity/operations. Sarah gets a position as a Research Coordinator at the Neurological Institute at the Cleveland Clinic researching exercise and cognition.
- Sarah works with longtime collaborators Trad Burns (lighting designer) and Chuck Karnak (technical guru) to create and produce “The City is Our Stage” a city-wide live performing arts event with multiple performance sites/maps for cars including 27 performing arts groups, as a safe and alternative way support live performance during the pandemic.
- Sarah works with MorrisonDance performers and life-partners Molly Haslag and Matthew Robinson, and filmmaker Bryce Boron to create an intimate series of films featuring close-proximity duets during the pandemic.
- Sarah is cast as a dancer in choreography by David Neumann in “White Noise,” a film based on the 1985 novel by Don DeLillo, directed by Noah Baumbach, starring Adam Driver, Greta Gerwin, Don Cheadle, and Jodie Turner-Smith.
Sarah takes the position of Director of Research at Dance/USA, a national organization supporting professional dance across the United States.
- MorrisonDance celebrates 25 years of dance in Northeast Ohio in a return to the stage at Cleveland Public Theatre.