Marcus Jarrell Willis joins Phoenix as the company’s ninth artistic director in October 2023.
As a dancer he has performed with RIOULT, Dominic Walsh Dance Theater, Tania Pérez- Salas Compañía de Danza and Ailey II. Willis performed with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater from 2008-2016, traveling around the world performing, teaching numerous masterclasses, and participating through Outreach in various communities, both locally and abroad. As a teaching artist, he has engaged with Rambert Dance Professional Program, Tring Park Performing Arts School, Kings International Ballet Academy, NDCWales Associates Programme, Dance Consortium Ailey Project UK, TU Dance, Joffrey Southwest Dallas, Centre Chorégraphique James Carles, Amsterdam Dance Centre and various training programs, universities, and conservatoires, globally. Willis is a YoungArts Level 1 award recipient and Presidential Scholar Nominee.
Willis has presented choreographic work in the 2009 TDDC Contemporary Dance Festival in NYC, The Ailey Dancer’s Resource Fund performances, The Dance Gallery Festival, The Moving Beauty Series and Gdánsk Festival Tańca in Poland. Commissions, residencies and film creations include works for Ailey II, TU Dance, NY Choreographic Institute, with dancers of New York City Ballet, Ballet Cymru, Ballet Memphis, The Big Muddy Dance Company, Company Danzante, The Juilliard School, SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Dance, The Ailey School, New World School of the Arts, University of Minnesota, Lucia Marthas Institute for the Performing Arts, Rubicon Dance, COCA, Satellite Collective, The Dance Gallery Festival Level Up Commission in 2013 and The 92nd Y Dance Introduction Series, among others. He was named Best Choreographer for TU Dance creation, Sensible Existence in City Pages 2018 Best of the Twin Cities. The evening length expansion of Sensible Existence was commissioned as a TU Dance Project in spring 2022.
Willis was the 2018/19 Leverhulme Choreography Fellow at Rambert Dance in London, during which time he completed the evening length solo creation POM/POM, Portrait of Man/Pieces of Me and created work with selected dancers of Rambert 2. In 2021, he was appointed the role of Resident Choreographer for Ballet Cymru in Newport, Wales UK, creating new works for Ballet Cymru, Ballet Cymru 2 and Wales Summer Dance (Wales International Ballet School) during his inaugural season. In 2022, he launched the choreography initiative in partnership with Ballet Cymru, Works in Progress (WIP), which aims to bridge gaps between mid-career choreographers and venues in Wales. In the spring of 2023, he curated and produced the first performance production of Works in Progress, WIP23. Included in the production was the premiere of his latest creation I.M. – Inherent Multiplicity, joining the roster of choreographic works for his independent dance performance project, MJ Willis Project-Inc.
Willis, inspired by the breadth and depth of the human experience, remains focused on uniting people through the art of dance.