Peter Sparling is the Rudolf Arnheim Distinguished University Professor Emeritus of Dance and Arthur F. Thurnau Professor Emeritus of Dance at University of Michigan. A graduate of Interlochen Arts Academy and The Juilliard School, Sparling was a member of the José Limón Dance Company and principal dancer with Martha Graham Dance Company. As Graham’s assistant, he coached Rudolf Nureyev and collaborated with her on many new works. He has performed and staged Graham’s works all over the world and has appeared with the company twice on PBS Dance in America. His video curtain warmers, Beautiful Captives: Martha Graham and the Cinematic IdVariations of Angels and Sacred/Profanehave opened three of the company’s New York seasons.

Sparling has had extensive experience as artistic director, (Peter Sparling Dance Company 1979-1983 NYC, 1993- 2007 Ann Arbor), choreographer, performer, teacher (U-M Distinguished Faculty Award and 1998 Governor’s Michigan Artist Award), lecturer, video artist, writer (Ballet Review, Choreographic Practices, Michigan Quarterly Review, and the recent anthology, Dance’s Duet with the Camera), collaborator, administrator (former chair, U-M Dance Department), dance/arts consultant, and activist (co-originated U-M Gay Faculty Alliance in 1993 to secure partner benefits). Sparling was a resident at Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris in 2010. He has presented papers at Society of Dance History Scholars and European Association for Dance History; he co-chaired the groundbreaking conference Meanings and Makings of Queer Dance at U-M. His dances for video have been selected for numerous international festivals, including the 2007 & 2020 New York Dance on Camera Festivals, the 2008, 19 & 20 American Dance Festival Dance Film & Video Festivals, Lisbon’s InShadow Festival 2010 & 2019, DANCE:FILMS Glasgow and 2017 & 2020 Ann Arbor Film Festival. His made-for-TV work, Climbing Sainte-Victoire, was broadcast on Michigan Television in 2009. His screendance, The Snowy Owl, was featured in the Court Métrage of the Cannes Film Festival 2015. In 2014, he created a five-screen installation, the Pop-Up Projection Pavilion, featured as the centerpiece of U-M’s 2017 Third Century Screens Competition and Symposium. Sparling sustained a ten-year residency at the U-M Life Sciences Institute, where he collaborated with cell biologist Dan Klionsky and maintained a painting studio. Since retiring from U-M in June, 2018, Sparling has completed his memoir, Confessions of a Dancing Man, and continues to create videos and paint at his home studio. He will present his third solo show of paintings at Gallery 22 North in Ypsilanti, MI in October, 2021. His cycle of 24 short videos to Schubert’s Winterreise isslated for its premiere with live musical performance in June 2021. He is presently organizing solo shows of his paintings in support of various LGBTQ organizations in Michigan. His paintings have been included in group shows at Ann Arbor Art Center and Buckham Gallery in Flint, MI. Sparling is currently collaborating with New Theater of Medicine on a production dealing with physician suicide. 

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Peter Sparling - Biography