Layla and Majnun

Mark Morris Dance Group & Silk Road Ensemble

This evening-length work will be just over an hour in length and features singers Alim Qasimov and Fargana Qasimova and musicians of the Silk Road Ensemble on traditional Asian instruments (kamancheh, tar, shakuhachi, and pipa) combined with Western strings (two violins, viola, cello, and contrabass) and a percussionist on stage with 16 dancers of the Mark Morris Dance Group. 

Howard Hodgkin, the esteemed English painter and expert collector of antique Mughal miniature paintings, designed the decor based on a South Indian katcheri (classical music concert) with all the musicians and dancers sharing the stage space on platforms and in front of a backdrop. Morris describes it as “a visually, musically, and choreographically unified and self-contained concert piece. An enlightening tragedy.” 

This production will not only introduce a beloved cornerstone of Middle Eastern folklore to a wide audience in the U.S. and abroad, but has the potential to engage new audiences drawn by the subject matter. The home territory of Layla and Majnun is located along the ancient Silk Route from India, Central Asia, and the Middle East to the eastern edge of Europe. This area, of current geopolitical focus and concern, is also the natal home of many immigrant communities in the U.S.—South Asians, Iranians, Arabs, and Azerbaijanis, among others—that are not typically represented among modern arts audiences.

Though the story of Layla and Majnun has been reinterpreted in countless poems, paintings, plays, songs, musical compositions, television dramas, and films, an adaptation of this scale has never been presented in the West.


Touring and Commissioning Partners include Harris Theater for Music and Dance, Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, Cal Performances, Sadler’s Wells, Meany Center, Hopkins Center, and University Musical Society.

Additionally, the presentation of Mark Morris Dance Group was made possible by the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project, with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.


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