Feature: Mark Morris Dance Group 01

Friday 7 April 2006

Mark Morris Group Mark Morris Dance Group
Sadler’s Wells, 16 – 20 Oct. & touring

There must be at least a dozen “Star Trek” episodes where Captain Picard and Co beam down to an alien village to discover its children frolicking around in garments appropriate to some neo-Roman cult of Love. Their dance follows the music with the well-controlled exactitude found in the work of the world-known artist, Mark Morris. This technique, although it is successful in bonding together the technical elements of the two arts, lacks a deeper understanding of the feel of music: In ‘I Don’t Want To Love’, his portrayal of Zephyr, Phyllida and other ancient favourites of the rococo era seems inadequate in exploring the stories drawn from the madrigal texts. In ‘V’ and __
‘Grand Duo’, the uniqueness of each dancer is about to emerge before it is cut short by overstated references to geometrical shapes. Here, the expressive beauty found in Morris’s previous works like ‘L’ Allegro’ is replaced by movements which transform the dancers to rows of live Subbuteo dolls. ‘Peccadillos’, Morris’s solo for himself, stands out with its contrasts of maturity and childishness but it fails to compensate for an evening of static dancing which — unlike the USS ENTERPRISE crew — seems to have little new to explore.
Evan Theods

Love or loathe him — the artist Mark Morris doesn’t leave room for indifference. His soft and gentle ‘I Don’t Want to Love’ expresses the ambiguities of human feelings. Seven madrigals from Monteverdi support delicate and romantic duets, with bright and sparkling group entrances. Throughout, Morris exaggerates the contrasts between the group eager for love and the individual who refuses the affection. The seven dancers’ white silk costumes help create a sense of purity.
Children’s piano pieces by Erik Satie are played on stage on a toy piano for Morris’s own solo. Here we see a round and weighted body dancing genuinely and keenly. A sense of playfulness and pantomime spreads through the audience while ‘Peccadillos’ revels around the figure of this choreographer.
After the rituals and celebrations of ‘Grand Duo’, the world premiere, ‘V’ set to Schumann’s Quintet in E flat, brings in a mixture of languages and movement vocabularies. They range from virtuoso musicality, where frenetic sequences oppose delicate gestures, to codified leg and arm movements resembling folk dance with circle and big group formations — all the familiar elements that make this company internationally recognisable, if somehow predictable.

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