Karen and I saw the Mark Morris Dance Group at John Jay College on 11/3. The performance was part of Lincoln Center's White Lights Festival, a new-ish festival dedicated to works with a spiritual element - - and this was part of a sub-festival called "Sounds of India."
The first piece was my favorite by far. The music was Lou Harrison's "Serenade for Guitar", with the guitarist and percussionist onstage, on the side. There was one dancer, Lesley Garrison, and she was amazing. The music and dancing both had a strong Eastern flavor, especially her hand movements and general attitude. The choreography was maybe a little too literal for my taste (movements tied precisely to the music), but it was beautifully danced.
The second piece was for a man and woman, it took place in a dance studio. I was shocked, shocked I tell you, that the music was a recording - - singing and talking from an Indian movie. I thought I read somewhere that one of the cornerstones of Mark Morris's work is that he always uses live music, and in the twelve to fifteen times I've seen his company, it has always been with live music. The dance piece was cute and a nice contrast to the pieces around it, but it wasn't great.
The third piece was another solo, danced by Dallas McMurray, another incredible dancer. And another recorded score, this time two women singing, with a sitar and drums. The first half of the piece was brilliant: he did a series of distinct movements, then went through the sequence of movements again, this time inserting pauses (held poses) between them, then did the sequence a third time, faster and more fluid. Morris's work often stimulates the intellect, and that was definitely happening. The problem is that the piece felt like it was over when he did the third repetition, it felt like it was winding up for a big finish - - but it didn't, it went on for another ten minutes. Those last ten minutes weren't as satisfying because it felt like the piece had ended already. It took me a while to get over that. There were some thrilling or charming moments in this final section, but it didn't hold my interest like the first. Maybe Morris should have added a second dancer, for variety.
The final piece was not great. Thankfully we had live music again, a string quartet in the pit. I wrote in my notes that it sounded like something the Kronos Quartet would have recorded in the 90s, and lo and behold, it was excerpts from Terry Riley's *Salome Dances For Peace*, which was recorded by the Kronos Quartet in 1989. There were twelve or fourteen dancers, men and women. Some interesting patterns, and of course the dancers are uniformly talented, but the choreography wasn't so inspired.
I was so disappointed with myself - - sometime that afternoon I went online to see if I could find out how long the performance was, and was jubilant that it was 65 minutes. How sad is that. As it turns out, 65 minutes, my ass. It was 85 minutes long. I want my 20 minutes back.