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Subject: "Mark Morris Dance Group, Sadler's Wells 5/10/99" Archived thread - Read only
 
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Conferences What's Happening Topic #288
Reading Topic #288
Lynette

07-10-99, 03:48 PM (GMT)
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"Mark Morris Dance Group, Sadler's Wells 5/10/99"
 
   Much to my surprise, given the ecstatic response to Mark Morris on his companyís last visit here, and despite extensive publicity, the opening night of their short season at Sadlerís, though reasonably full, wasnít a sell out. The audience seemed to be a very eclectic mix, more varied than the usual at Sadlers, with a broad age range. The performance seemed hugely popular, with only a few dissenters - a handful of people slipped away from the upper circle, during the final item. I enjoyed this mixed programme much more than Líallegro on their last visit here, in part because of the variety, and perhaps Iím just getting more attuned to the approach. Last time I felt distracted by the varying shapes and physiques of the dancers, but this didnít register the same way this time (well, apart from Morris himself, of which more anon). Either they have changed, or I am learning to look differently.

The evening began with Gloria, the oldest of the works on the programme, which is only being given at Sadlers and not at other venues on the tour. This had dark moments, as the dancers inched slowly across the stage on their stomachs, in images of slow exhausted struggle, but these are offset by Morrisís gleefulness and exuberance breaking out in different, riotous forms. I was rather fond of one section which reminded me irresistibly of kids playing games in the playground and larking about.

It was very interesting to see the company version of The Argument, having seen White Oak perform this at Sadlerís in spring. White Oakís version was centred on Baryshnikov, who interacted with various levels of irritation and tenderness with three women, with a lightly ironic self-deprecatory touch: these women, you know, always hanging around, what is a man to do ? The companyís version is very different, with three contrasting couples playing out different styles of disagreement and rapprochement. It is beautifully fitted to Schumannís music for cello and piano, played onstage: the dancers acknowledging the musiciansí presence, reacting to them, and dancing quite assertively at them at times. It was a very sharply observed piece, with both the humour, frustration and jealousies of partnerships put over very clearly. The sudden shifts of mood seemed both emotionally true and to flow very directly from the music.

The final item was Rhymes with Silver, which has a glorious backdrop in luminous red and green from Howard Hodgkin. Itís not often that designs make such a strong impression, but this simple bold design, and the plain green and black costumes seemed to complement the work very well. Perhaps this item was a few minutes longer than ideal - it seemed to have a number of false endings. The work has a very disciplined, unified feel, and yet there are echoes of all kinds of different dance language in there - the opening section was very formal and controlled, with arm postures and movements which evoked a sense of Thai classical dance: later there were hints of something like a martial arts stance, and then perhaps an echo of folk dance, or social dancing. But it doesnít come over as a crazy hotch potch, but as a cohesive whole , which is cool and restrained, funny and thrilling by turns. The percussive score from Lou Harrison was similarly eclectic.

The dancers went about it with relish. There was a solo from Morris in which he seemed almost to float over the stage, as he circled round one stationary dancer: it certainly challenges your preconceptions of what a dancer looks like, and I could almost hear different parts of my brain arguing with one another - thinking, um, there is a lot of him, and also, but how light he is, how feline. Iím afraid youíll have to go and see him yourself and make up your own mind. Itís an invigorating and exuberant evening of dance.


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