Born in Seattle, Washington, dancer and choreographer Mark Morris became interested in music and dance at an early age and was encouraged to pursue these interests by his parents. He began studying dance at the age of 8 and quickly absorbed the rudiments of flamenco, folk, modern dance, and ballet. By his early teens, he was already choreographing short pieces for his dancing-school recitals. Following graduation from high school, Morris traveled through Europe, settling for a time in Madrid, where he continued his training in Spanish dance. He left Spain in 1975, however, because of his dislike for the homophobia of the Franco regime and the furtiveness of gay life in Madrid. Upon returning to the United States, he settled in New York, where he performed briefly with the Eliot Feld Ballet and as a guest dancer with a number of dance companies. In 1981 Morris formed his own company, the Mark Morris Dance Group. One of the most gifted choreographers in modern dance, Morris has produced a number of notable works for his company, including Castor and Pollux (1981), Songs That Tell a Story (1982), O Rangasayee (1984), Sonata for Clarinet and Piano (1988), Fantasy (1988), and Strict Songs (1988). Morris's taste in music is eclectic, and he has choreographed works to an unusually wide range of compositions, from baroque to punk rock. Especially unique to Morris is the straightforward "gayness" of some of his works. He often abandons gender-determined roles as well, having both men and women share partnering responsibilities and sometimes having dancers of the same sex partner each other. Typical of his more recent works is their complex choreographic structure, the musical detail, and their tongue-in-cheek humor.