In the early 1980s earplugs were sometimes distributed for performances of a ballet by the American choreographer Karole Armitage (Madison, 1954). At the time she was known as the ‘punk ballerina’ and she had no scruples about combining harsh garage rock with wild choreographies that had their roots in classical dance, complete with pointes and tutu – but worn over black skinny jeans. The choreographer still regularly wears her blond hair in punky spikes but her dance idiom has become more multifaceted. It has space for lyricism and harmony, which however still doesn’t detract from the strongly physical character of her work: big, clear movements that give the dancers plenty of opportunity to show their technical abilities. Armitages’s old audacious, cheeky side frequently returns, for instance when she has dancers of the prestigious Ballett der Deutschen Oper Berlin enter the stage together with six poodles.
Following a strict classical ballet education Armitage danced at the Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève, which at the time excelled with the neoclassical work of the great ballet innovator George Balanchine. In 1976 she returned to the United States where she spent five years dancing with the Merce Cunningham Company – the company of that other great American dance inventor, but in the field of modern dance. Some critics see Armitage as continuing the heritage of both these grand masters, but she clearly reveals an individual voice in her choreographies.
Her first work, Ne, dating from 1978, was followed in 1981 by the iconic Drastic-Classicism. In the 1980s Armitage led her own group in New York, The Armitage Ballet, but the punk ballerina quickly also received invitations to create pieces for top ballet companies such as the Ballet National de l’Opéra de Paris and the American Ballet Theatre, after which many other renowned companies followed, including the Bolshoi Ballet, Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo, The Washington Ballet and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.
From 1996 to 2000 Armitage was the artistic director of the Italian MaggioDanza. After this she was responsible for the dance programming of the Venice Biennale in 2004 and for several years was the resident choreographer of the Ballet de Lorraine in France. Since 2004 she has once again had her own company in New York: Armitage Gone! Dance Company. When making her choreographies she often seeks collaboration with artists from other disciplines, such as the visual artist Jeff Koons. Armitage has also created choreographies for Broadway productions, directed operas and produced the choreography for video clips by Madonna and Michael Jackson.
In 2002 Introdans Ensemble for Youth included a work by Armitage in its repertoire for the first time: Pinocchio. In March 2015 Introdans Ensemble for Youth will be dancing the spectacular, colourful Rave. Specially for this event the ensemble will be expanded to 24 dancers.