BWW Review: MARK MORRIS DANCE GROUP at the Mostly Mozart Festival
Having watched the Mark Morris over the past 20 years, I can say with all honesty that he has all the virtues that distinguish a fine choreographer: musicality, vitality, charm, humor. My problem is that I never find myself warming to anything I see, especially to the program on July 11, 2019.
Sport, a world premiere to Satie's Sports et Divertissements was cute, engaging, and over quickly. Dancers were enacting sports we see outdoors: golf, boating, rowing. They danced to the music and without the music. It was a charming, bright idea that went on far too long. Charmers can be boring, and this one certainly did not add any prestige to the company.
Empire Garden took its cue from Charles Ives Trio for Violin, Cello and Piano, played in the orchestra pit by Georgy Valtchev (violin), Wolfram Koessel (cello) and Colin Fowler (piano). All good, but does Ives really respond to ballet treatment? If you have ever seen Balanchine's Ivesiana, especially the movement Central Park in the Dark, you can remember what a stunner that was: A young woman, borne aloft by a group of men, is never allowed to touch the ground, continually eluding the grasp of the man on the floor who keeps reaching out to her. As much as I have enjoyed the ballet, audiences never warmed to it. There have been a few others, particularly in the New York City Ballet: Peter Martins' Calcium Light Night, Jerome Robbins' Ives, Songs and Eliot Feld's The Unanswered Question, all of which have never been in the company's repertoire for any length of time.
Morris has set his dancers in what looks like a picnic on the Fourth of July. Everyone is happy. I have read some other reviewers, claiming the work turns dark and ominous, something I did not pick up on. Like Sport, it seemed endless. I sometimes wonder if choreographers take a good hard look at their work.
The program ended with V, set to Schumann's Quintet in E-flat major for Piano and Strings. I have always enjoyed this work, yet seeing it again I have the feeling that this is music that needs choreography. It stands by itself; the choreography intrudes on it. It almost puts you in two minds as to which you would prefer, the music or the dance.
The work begins with the dancers in a V formation; they then split out into some joyous and rapturous movements where expression, compassion, even comedy, are shared with the audience. The work is deep, thoughtful, one might say even beautiful, it is an articulation of what Morris feels and what he likes to share with an audience. The work is so heartfelt that I felt guilty for not liking it more than I did. Yet, I still believe that this was the wrong music for Morris.
I salute all the dancers in the company, the costumes designers and lighting designers. In fact, everything on stage was flawless. But I still worry; I should respond to the choreography; but I can't.
Photo: Stephanie Berger