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Subject: "Mark Morris Dance Group at Sadler's Wells" Archived thread - Read only
 
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Bruce Madmin

06-10-99, 09:38 PM (GMT)
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"Mark Morris Dance Group at Sadler's Wells"
 
   Well I'm not quite sure what happened, but having not really thought so much of Mark Morris before I found myself coming away from his opening night at Sadler's a convert.

Morris is major fun with a capital F and shows us that dancing does not have to be about precision or honed bodies, but rather exhilaration and exuberance. It seems to appeal at a simple and basic level, in the same way that children do things before they get sophisticated and lose their innocence, and several times I felt a bit like the parent come to watch the kids perform at school.

But Morris frankly sees a cerebral and very musical side to what he does and many talk of his cleverness. Certainly he makes skipping and crawling politically correct. Whatever the background, seeing him perform with his group is a different dance experience - I've never seen so many different body shapes on display and Morris himself is a strapping lad who obviously enjoys a pork pie or three.

At first it's odd seeing such diversity, but the choreography is loose and there is a pleasing lack of perfection all around: what a different and very human take on performing. This is not a put down to the dancers, but one almost feels that Morris could take a group of ordinary people and weld them into an exciting piece that everybody would enjoy - how many other choreographers could you say that about?

There were 3 pieces on display dating from the early 80's through to the present day. Sadly there are no programme notes and even when Morris mentions the pieces in a reproduced interview (by Donald Hutera and an excellent read) he talks about them in terms of choreographic and company processes rather than why he did them or what they may be about.

I appreciate that my wish for guidance is dreadfully old-fashioned, that I should not fret about it, but just lie back and see what I see etc. But somehow I can't get away from thinking that's tosh and that if you provide the notes those that like them will read them and those that like to discover for themselves won't. Net result: more people pleased.

Gloria (to the Vivaldi of the same name) is fluid and free. Little stories, of no consequence seem to get played out as others just dance or crawl, grasshopper like, at times. Gloria is indeed glorious music but sweetly relentless, something that Morris responds to, and while nothing is frenetic it's only at the end that you realise how exhausting it has all been.

The Argument is just that - 3 couples arguing both as couples and altogether as intrigues and factions emerge. The music is by Robert Schumann for cello and piano, both of which are on stage with the dancers. This is the most 'straight' of the pieces and also introduces Morris himself. But for me the Morris persona really came out in the last piece, Rhymes with Silver. There are all manner of social dance styles in here with Morris appearing as some sort of an outsider to a group. He is by turns obviously comical, his thick shape and wicked looks magnifying the fun, and then he becomes deadly serious, truly believing in his role and the beauty of it at times. It seems incongruous but you get swept up by him and start to believe. The costumes (black and dark green velvet) and background hanging (enormous red and green paint brush strokes) are splendid and give the piece a more professional air. At 45 minutes Rhymes with Silver is perhaps a few minutes too long it but it ended a great evening with style.


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  Subject     Author     Message Date     ID  
  RE: Mark Morris Dance Group at Sadler's Wells Stephanie Wragg 07-10-99 1
     RE: Mark Morris Dance Group at Sadler's Wells Stuart Sweeney 07-10-99 2
         RE: Mark Morris Dance Group at Sadler's Wells Jane S 07-10-99 3
     RE: Mark Morris Dance Group at Sadler's Wells Bruce Madmin 07-10-99 4
         RE: Mark Morris Dance Group at Sadler's Wells Alexandra 08-10-99 5
         RE: Mark Morris Dance Group at High Wycombe Stephanie Wragg 25-10-99 8
  RE: Mark Morris Dance Group at Sadler's Wells Renee Renouf 14-10-99 6
     RE: Mark Morris Dance Group at Sadler's Wells Ann W 14-10-99 7

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Stephanie Wragg

07-10-99, 10:02 AM (GMT)
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1. "RE: Mark Morris Dance Group at Sadler's Wells"
In response to message #0
 
   I enjoyed reading this review and am now looking forward more than ever to seeing the one-and-only performance in High Wycombe on October 23rd.

I was wondering if you would have enjoyed the evening as much if Mark Morris had not been performing and left the stage to the company? He is such a charismatic personality, it comes through in written interviews and on tv also (remember the Morris/YoYo Ma collaboration on a Bach Cello concerto?). I remember reading about the White Oaks Project recently and how the reviewer was a bit bored by it all, except when Baryshnikov was dancing. I guess that's the risk of having a company bearing your name or built around your talent and fame i.e. can it survive and thrive without that person?


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Stuart Sweeney

07-10-99, 08:32 PM (GMT)
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2. "RE: Mark Morris Dance Group at Sadler's Wells"
In response to message #1
 
   >I was wondering if you would have
>enjoyed the evening as much if
>Mark Morris had not been performing
>and left the stage to the
>company?

>I guess that's the
>risk of having a company bearing
>your name or built around your
>talent and fame i.e. can it
>survive and thrive without that person?

I think the positions of White Oaks and the Mark Morris D C are very different. White Oaks is a repertory company commissioning a lot of new work from a variety of choreographers and able to do so because of the presence of Baryshnikov. Without his dancing, and occasionally going on solo tours to raise money, it is difficult to imagine the Company continuing in the same way.

The MMDC, on the other hand, is based on the talent of Morris as a choreographer. As an illustration, when the Company was filling the Coliseum a few years ago with 'L'Allegro, il Pensoroso ed il Moderato', Morris was not dancing. He used to dance regularly in the Company, but I get the impression that it is now less than it used to be. When he is dancing, his musicality is still a joy to behold, but physically, he is not in as good shape as Baryshnikov, who is some 10 years older.

My view is that Morris can command some of the best contemporary dancers in the World for his Company and his dancing is an added bonus, if used sparingly. If his choreographic reputation remains at something like its current high level, then with another 10 years or so of new works, the MMDC will survive in the way that the Martha Graham Company has.


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Jane S

07-10-99, 10:09 PM (GMT)
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3. "RE: Mark Morris Dance Group at Sadler's Wells"
In response to message #2
 
   I think maybe a closer comparison is with the great dancer/choreographers of the recent past: Graham, Cunningham and Paul Taylor, who all originally danced in their own choreography. Paul Taylor stopped when he could no longer dance the roles he'd created for himself in the past ( and if I could choose one dancer to see out of all those I've missed, it would be him); Martha Graham went on doing her roles to an age when she might perhaps have been wiser to hand them over to someone else; and Merce Cunningham went on till quite recently making himself roles which accepted, and even featured, his increasingly limited movement and the growing discrepancy between himself and the rest of his company.

I would guess that Mark Morris would favour the Cunningham approach - already the difference between him and his dancers is much more marked than it was. Although his appearances add a flavour and perhaps a piquancy to his works that probably no-one else will ever provide, those that he doesn't appear in - like Gloria in this week's programme - don't leave me feeling I'm missing anything, and I agree that his company is far more than a one-man show and should easily survive if Morris ever decides to give up dancing.


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Bruce Madmin

07-10-99, 10:26 PM (GMT)
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4. "RE: Mark Morris Dance Group at Sadler's Wells"
In response to message #1
 
   >I enjoyed reading this review and am
>now looking forward more than ever
>to seeing the one-and-only performance in
>High Wycombe on October 23rd.

Thank you!


>I was wondering if you would have
>enjoyed the evening as much if
>Mark Morris had not been performing
>and left the stage to the
>company?


There is no doubting the charisma of Morris and I did enjoy watching him dance. But the choreography is intrinsically 'good stuff' and his dancers alone will, I'm sure, repay a thorough watching in their own right. But I don't see them as particularly fine in any conventional sense - I almost feel they are fine because they are such a mixed and eclectic bunch of personalties and body shapes... who happen to be able to dance. The most thrilling modern dancers I think I've seem were Siobhan Davies' in Wild Air (which I saw earlier in the year at High Wycombe - where you are seeing Morris). For the first time I was struck by modern dancers of tremendous dexterity and training. But I'm not so attuned as some to modern dance and have much still to fathom and put together.

I hope you enjoy seeing them and if you get a chance do drop back and share your thoughts with us.


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Alexandra

08-10-99, 02:07 AM (GMT)
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5. "RE: Mark Morris Dance Group at Sadler's Wells"
In response to message #4
 
   I've thoroughly enjoyed reading these comments on Mark Morris. His L'Allegro/Il Penseroso, which only came to Washington last year, was the high point of that season for me, and, although I agree with Bruce that some of his dances are a bit too long (I think he gets caught up in his own inventiveness) he's one of the few people younger than Paul Taylor and Merce Cunningham whose work I enjoy watching.

Since there were so many comments on Morris's stage personality and its effect on the perceptions of the works, I thought some of you might be interested in a dance he did for a toy truck. It was a solo to a country and western song -- one of those "She Done Me Wrong," nasal, whining songs. (I'm sorry, but I can't remember the name.) Just a child's toy truck, that jerked and lurched across the stage as the singer wailed his tale of woe. At one point, the little truck was so heartbroken, he simply couldn't go on. Then, tentatively, brokenly, he -- I mean, it -- gave a final lurch and purposefully started on the journey again.

The audience was howling with laughter by the end, partly because thing was so darned clever, and partly because everybody was caught up in this drama of a truck, for Pete's sake, and a song none of us would have been caught dead playing on the radio.

I think dance is all the richer for an imagination like that. I'm always glad to see Mark Morris's work.

Alexandra


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Stephanie Wragg

25-10-99, 11:31 AM (GMT)
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8. "RE: Mark Morris Dance Group at High Wycombe"
In response to message #4
 
   Well, October 23rd has come and gone and I finally got to see the performance. This was my fourth visit to the Swan at High Wycombe (two Dance Bites and ARC Dance Company) and as ever, I was impressed at how a good venue for dance it is.

The program started with The Argument: no Mark Morris dancing in it and the musicians were in the pit, so perhaps we lost a bit of the interplay that was noticed at SW. I liked the intensity of the dancers, they looked at one another so much and just drew me in. Of course the movements were great, a lot of oh, do that move again it's so lovely. As my German is non-existant (Schumann's 5 songs have titles), and program notes are verboten, I believe I missed out somewhat on this piece.

Dancing Honeymoon followed: Mark Morris was in this and it was difficult to stop watching him to look at the others. Very upbeat, witty and joyous , a delight. Again, very inventive choreography with chairs flying and used for more than mere sitting.

After intermission, Mark Morris came back to appear in Bedtime. Again, I would have got more out of the piece had my German been existant (three sung Schubert pieces), but it was still engrossing.
The vening ended with Grand Duo, my first introduction to the music of Lou Harrison. I didn't enjoy the first movement at all, it felt aimless to me and that's perhaps a result of this pieve being 'retro-choreographed' (as we were informed by Mark Morris during a Q&A seesion after the show). Things picked up in the following 3 movements. The frenzy in the last 'polka' movement was unbelievable, it had every hallmark of the choreographer's in it, but on fast forward. Amazing dancers and steps. Interesting costumes, they seemed inspired by Egyptian hieroglyphs to me.

The evening ended with a Q&A session which was interesting, considering how Mark Morris must have answered the same questions about a throusand times! Overall an enjoyable evening and a must see on their next UK tour.

By the way, the comapny website is: www.mmdg.org


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Renee Renouf

14-10-99, 02:59 AM (GMT)
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6. "RE: Mark Morris Dance Group at Sadler's Wells"
In response to message #0
 
   October 13, 1999

The comments about Morris are intriguing. He can
be so glorious and then he can be enormously self-
indulgent in his choreography. I think his
"Sandpaper Ballet" will be one of the mixed program for San Francisco Ballet -- premiered this
spring and an interesting essay in dancers weaving
in and out of block formation in keeping with the
cute accents of the music.

Watching him, you might want to remember that without Paul Taylor, there were no shoulders for
Mark Morris to climb on. It's a clear example of
where someone has taken over from a mentor.


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Ann W

14-10-99, 07:20 PM (GMT)
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7. "RE: Mark Morris Dance Group at Sadler's Wells"
In response to message #6
 
   Renee
I couldn't agree more with your comments re Paul Taylor being a major 'influence' on Mark Morris. In particular, the resemblance of Morris's 'L'Allegro Il Penseroso..'to Paul Taylor's lovely 'Airs' can hardly be ignored.

I still love Morris's work, though.


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