beautiful children: Mark Morris Dance Group.
Mae G. Banner
Morris Dance Group
Egg, April 15
the 25th anniversary of the Mark Morris Dance Group, Morris
has revived 15 of his solosóshiny pebbles in an edifice of
grand ensemble works. As he nears his 50th birthday, the dance
maker has begun to pass these solos on to other dancers, and
we saw two of them Saturday in the groupís concert at the
(2000) was danced by Joe Bowie, whose hunky body and open
chest resemble Morrisís physique. Bowie flung himself totally
into the miniature dances, almost channeling Morris as he
moved to Erik Satieís pieces composed for a toy piano.
The dance is a bit of childís play, totally involving. Bowie,
a toy soldier in a red body-suit with gold stripes across
his chest, mimed galloping, shooting, and surrendering to
a foe, while Steven Beck sat scrunched at the onstage toy
piano, looking like Peanutsí Schroeder. Peccadilloes
looked to be invented on the spot, the way a child is immersed
in a game, but I think itís also Morrisís take on Petrouchka,
the puppet with a soul.
Bradon McDonald, whoís been with the Morris group for only
six years, is coming to the center as an inspired interpreter
of the choreographerís deceptively simple dances. McDonald
danced Three Preludes (1992) with Beck playing Gershwinís
bluesy, jazzy laments on a full-size piano in the pit.
Smoothly garbed in Isaac Mizrahiís black pants and V-neck
sweater with a minstrelís white gloves and black ballet slippers,
McDonald twirled with dizzying arms going one way while his
body went another. Embodying the music, he became a Fourth
of July sparkler, a sad ballet dancer with an inner slump
but a still-balletic torso. His moves seemed inevitable: brushes
with his foot to four directions in turn, a tilted body in
a primitive arabesque, a curled back and a little jump-turn
that recalled the artistry of Bert Williams.
Different as they were in mood and music, the two solos had
in common Morrisí connection to the wisdom of childhood. His
choreography dives deep into the music and lets it move the
dancer into exaltation.
The program opened and closed with familiarly communal works.
Rock of Ages (2004) is a dance for four to the adagio
movement of Schubertís Piano trio in E flat, performed
by Beck, with Jennifer Curtis, violin; and Wolfram Koessel,
cello. The costumes are stunningly simple daytime skirts and
pants of glowing blue-green, navy blue and purple, lit with
an undersea look by Nicole Pearce.
The dancers seemed to be seeking (for truth, for peace, for
human connection?) as they took slow, thoughtful steps, met
in pairs, separated and reconfigured with new partners. A
dancer would suddenly open his palm or touch another on the
shoulder, sometimes with the childís swift magic touch that
brings the other person to life.
In a repeated motif, dancers stood with their backs to us
in the pose of Degasí child dancer, hands clasped behind their
backs, heads tilted upward, reading the skies. Itís a gesture
of shyness, youth, or diffidence, and it makes you love them
as you wonder what theyíre thinking.
It was good to see Gloria (1981; revised 1984) again.
Company members joke that this ensemble dance to Vivaldiís
anthem is done in Morrisís ďancient style,Ē which means that,
compared to Rock of Ages, say, it is heavier, the bodies
more awkward, and the searching that drives it more labored.
The newest work, Candleflowerdance (2005) is dedicated
to the late Susan Sontag, a friend and fan of Morris. Six
dancers moved to piano music of Stravinsky, tracing a path
inside and outside the boundaries of a lit rectangle taped
off in white. It could have been a miniature tennis court
or an open grave awaiting the lowering of the coffin. Large
candles were set downstage and a vase of flowers in the shadows
upstage, again suggesting the props of a funeral.
The dancers performed everyday gestures of mourning, covering
their eyes with their palms or meeting in pairs to comfort
each other. One woman circled her arms around another in a
wide hoop, starting at her partnerís waist and moving the
circle upward until she was embracing empty air above her
had noble intentions, but didnít live up to them. Iím looking
forward to more reprises of rarely seen solos that Morris
will bring to Jacobís Pillow in August.