Jonathan Burrows was born in County Durham, England, in 1960. After studying at The Royal Ballet School for eight years from the ages of eleven to nineteen, he was accepted into the Royal Ballet on an 'Apprentice Choreographer' contract. During the thirteen years he spent as a ballet dancer he made a number of early pieces of choreography for the Royal Ballet Chorographic Group, the Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet, Extemporary Dance Company, Spiral Dance Company, Riverside Studios, Dance Umbrella and The Place Theatre, while also playing an increasingly active role as a dancer, rising to the rank of soloist.
In 1986, while still a ballet dancer, he met and began to perform with the experimental choreographer Rosemary Butcher, with whom he continued to work on and off until 1999.
In 1988 he presented his first full length evening Hymns at The Place Theatre, followed by Dull Morning Cloudy Mild (1989) and Stoics (1991), which toured small English venues and was the first of his pieces to be invited abroad. At this point Burrows left The Royal Ballet and formed his own company The Jonathan Burrows Group, based at The Place Theatre, London.
In 1989 he had begun his long collaboration with the composer Matteo Fargion, whom he had met through connections with the UK International Choreographic Course For Choreographers and Composers. Fargion began immediately to play a vital role in the work, composing, choreographing and performing in many pieces.
It was through Fargion that in 1994 Burrows began an occasional two years of study with the composer Kevin Volans, who wrote music for a number of pieces and whose influence has been central to the development of the work of the two collaborators.
Over the eight years from 1991 until 1999 the Jonathan Burrows Group made five pieces: Very (1992), Our (1994), The Stop Quartet (1996), Quintet (1996) and Things I Don't Know (1997), which were performed widely and began to attract an international reputation.
From 2000 onwards Burrows decided to break with the company model of working and concentrate on one to one collaborations with other artists, who would share the conception, making, performing and administrating of the work.
The first collaboration made this way was Weak Dance Strong Questions (2001), created with the Dutch theatre maker and performer Jan Ritsema, which opened at the 2001 Panacea Festival in Stockholm and subsequently toured to 14 countries.
This was followed by the start of a series of duets with Matteo Fargion, beginning in 2002 with Both Sitting Duet, followed by The Quiet Dance (2005), Speaking Dance (2006), Cheap Lecture (2009), The Cow Piece (2009), Counting To One Hundred (2011), One Flute Note (2012), Show And Tell (2013), Rebelling Against Limit (2013) and Body Not Fit For Purpose (2014). The two men have now shown their work across Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, South Korea, Spain, Sweden,Switzerland, Turkey, UK and the USA. Both Sitting Duet won a 2004 New York Dance and Performance 'Bessie' Award, and Cheap Lecture was selected for the prestigious 2009 Het Theaterfestival in Belgium.
In 2010 Burrows worked with a new partner, the dancer Chrysa Parkinson, on Dogheart, which premiered at Kaaitheater in Brussels. In the same year he also made Holding them in front of you with Adrian Heathfield, which opened the Performance Matters season at Toynbee Hall, London.
Other high profile collaborators include Sylvie Guillem’s performance of his choreography in Adam Roberts' film Blue Yellow in 1996, his invitation in 1997 to choreograph Walking/music for William Forsythe’s Ballet Frankfurt and Duet (1999) made in collaboration with Akram Khan for Desert Steps, an evening of the music of Kevin Volans. In 2008 he was Associate Director on Peter Handke's The Hour We Knew Nothing Of Each Other for the National Theatre, London. Burrows and Fargion are also contributors to William Forsythe's Motionbank website project (2012-2013).
Written work includes A Choreographer's Handbook (2010) published by Routledge, which has sold 8,000 copies to date and been translated into German and Slovenian.
Burrows has also been curator for As it is (1998) at The South Bank Centre London, Parallel Voices (2007) for the Siobhan Davies Studios London and All The World Likes To Dance To A Beat (2012) for Fondation Cartier Paris, and co-curated Remembering British New Dance in London with Ramsay Burt (2012) and Dance Umbrella 2012 in London with Betsy Gregory.
He was an Associate Artist 1992- 2002 at Kunstencentrum Vooruit in Gent, Belgium, Artist-In-Residence at London’s South Bank Centre 1998/9 and Artist-In-Residence at Kaaitheater Brussels 2008-2010. In 2002 he was given an award by the Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts In New York, in recognition for his ongoing contributions to contemporary dance.
Since 2002 he has led workshops in Australia, UK, Japan, Belgium, Brazil, USA, Lithuania, Austria, Germany, Norway, Korea, France, Croatia, Italy, Sweden, Ireland, Poland and Canada. He is a visiting member of faculty at P.A.R.T.S, the school of Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker in Brussels, and has also been a Visiting Professor for the Department of Drama and Theatre at Royal Holloway, University Of London, the Performance Studies Department of Hamburg University, the Institute for Theatre Studies at the Free University Berlin, the Koninklijke Academie van Schone Kunsten Gent, The Institute for Applied Theatre Studies at Giessen University and the Department of Drama, Theatre and Performance at Roehampton University London. Burrows holds an Honorary Doctorate from Royal Holloway University of London.
Burrows is currently a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Dance Research, Coventry University.
He lives in Lewes, England.