Mark Morris Dance Group
If you’re a fan of dance, you’ve probably heard of Mark Morris. His witty, inspired choreography is celebrated for its thoughtful relationship with musical accompaniment and exceptional craftsmanship. Morris’ work is accessible to the dance novice but sophisticated enough for the aficionado. He frequently choreographs for arts institutions around the world, but his own dance group and center are located in my backyard — fabulous Brooklyn, New York. Today we’ll be examining his organization’s Web site: www.markmorrisdancegroup.org.
The Mark Morris Dance Group includes the company and a school. The site’s homepage showcases both, plus its location (the Dance Center building), under one of the biggest (and somewhat uninspired) logos ever to grace a Web site. Below that, large banners run the width of the site promoting current happenings like class enrollments, Mark’s new television show and an upcoming performance. It’s all big, big, big, with main navigation floating in the middle of the two, and other actionable items (Mailing List and Donate Now) drifting along the bottom of the all-gray background.
For any arts organization, the challenge in Web site design is demonstrating its unique, creative je ne sais quoi while adhering to best practices that actually make a site functional. In the relentless pursuit of form, function often gets chucked out the window like a Hershey’s bar wrapper on a middle-school field trip. Many arts orgs, for instance, begin by building pretty sites in Flash that animate in neat ways but remain virtually impossible for search engines to crawl or visitors to navigate intuitively. MMDG has avoided the obvious pitfalls here and relied on big images, good content and functionality — and a simple, but striking, gray background to make the site work.
It’s all here
If you poke around, you’ll find just about everything a patron might want on this site: a performance calendar, box office numbers, maps, dancers’ bios, recent press coverage, even a sumptuous photo gallery. White type floats on a dark-gray background that frames the images beautifully — and what beautiful images they are. The organization clearly has invested in great photos and knows how to use them well.