Mark Morris Dance Group, 7/10/19
Stephanie, Christian, and I saw the Mark Morris Dance Group at Mostly Mozart on 7/10/19. There were three pieces on the program. The first was *Sport,* a world premiere done to *Sports et divertissements* by Erik Satie, here played on piano (there are a few versions of this piece). Colin Fowler played it with just the right style, a sort of dry sophistication. This was my favorite piece on the program, it was witty and playful. I liked that it featured sounds by the dancers, who are too often asked to be silent - - in this piece they grunted, clapped their hands, and stomped their feet on the floor. My favorite sequence had four men lying on the floor and then rolling back on their shoulders and making various formations with their legs in the air, often their butts in the air. It was amusing and creative, one of many moments that had an insect or crustacean vibe. Stephanie said the crab moment made her think of Busby Berkeley. Never a bad thing! There are 21 short movements in the piece and the space between movements was usually filled with dancing, to no music. And then when the dancers stayed frozen after one movement ended and the next movement started, it seemed to be an indication that it was the last movement - - which it was. I love it when a performance teaches you how to watch it, I find that so rewarding as an audience member. The biggest treat of the evening was seeing dancers I had seen many times over the years, especially Lauren Grant, Lesley Garrison, and Dallas McMurray. McMurray is my favorite dancer in the group, he doesn’t just do the steps, he dances with panache and attitude. He’s a joy to watch. The second piece was *Empire Garden,* done to the Charles Ives piano trio. I found both the music and dancing to be intellectually stimulating. The music incorporated American folk and hymn tunes (the piece ends with an off-kilter version of “Rock Of Ages”) and Stephanie noticed that the dancing referenced 19th century American dance forms, like the cake walk. The music often had three things happening at the same time and not necessarily relating to each other, and the dancing did that too. Organized chaos. The costumes sere fabulous - - I wrote in my notes that they were like “brightly colored Tibetan pajamas.” That’s not offensive, is it? More to the point, does it give you an image of what they looked like? The final piece was *V,* done to the Schumann piano quintet. This was my least favorite piece on the program probably because I knew the music the best of the three, and Schumann isn’t really my jam as much as Satie and Ives. The costumes seemed to have an impact on the dancing: the piece started with seven dancers in bright blue shiny outfits, long sleeved tops and short shorts. They did their thing for a while, then they left the stage and another seven dancers came on wearing light green outfits with a linen vibe, sleeveless tops and long pants. The piece consisted of dancers from these two camps interacting in a meaningful way.
The Schumann was Stephanie's favorite piece. She said, "I felt that there was a real emotional connection between the music and the dancers/choreography that wasn't exactly present in the other things. Call me old fashioned....."