Morris Dance Group
Away Party,’ ‘All Fours,’ ‘A Spell,’ ‘Gloria’
By Carol Herron
-- Center for the Arts, George Mason University, Washington, D.C.
The Center for the
Arts hosted a pre-performance discussion. The speaker was the very entertaining
Barry Alterman, General Director of Mark Morris Dance Group, who has been
with Mark Morris for 20 years. He gave a brief history of the MMDG and
then answered questions from the audience.
Some of the questions
included interest about what Mark Morris is working on now: the San Francisco
Ballet will present "Sylvia" in April, and he is working on
a program for '06 that will be about King Arthur. Another question was
about the difference between European and US audiences and how they feel
about MMDG. Barry Alterman and MMDG obviously did not enjoy their stint
in Europe much. But he did make a distinction between continental Europe
and the UK, saying that MMDG is very popular in the UK. The session concluded
with a discussion about commissioning music for dance, something that
Mark Morris does not do very often.
The Center for the Arts has a long standing relationship with Mark Morris,
where his group performs annually and where he conducts master classes.
The evening marked the professional debut of George Mason University dance
alumna Rita Donahue as an apprentice with MMDG. The Theater is a pleasant
venue with pretty good sight lines no matter where one sits. There was
one very unpleasant aspect to the evening, not caused by the Theater or
the dancers but by an audience member who was wearing so much perfume,
our eyes were watering.
"Going Away Party," danced to music by Bob Wills and His Texas
Playboys, was thoroughly enjoyable, a little risqué and laugh-out-loud
funny at times. This dance is the only piece to recorded music. Apparently
MMDG has tried to get live musicians to recreate the music, but it was
not as effective as the recorded music. I especially liked the dancing
in “When You Leave Amarillo, Turn Out the Lights,” sweetly funny and a
"All Fours" was danced to music by Bela Bartok, beautifully
played live by Jonathan Gandelsman, Andrea Schultz, Jessica Troy and Wolfram
Koessel. I have to admit I do not like Bartok, and though the dancing
was excellent I did not enjoy it much. The fourth section, "IV Allegretto
pizzicato," danced by Lauren Grant and Brynn Taylor, was the one
of the first pieces in Mark Morris' first concert in 1979.
"A Spell" to music by John Wilson was a series of lover's dances
with Cupid assisting. The soprano Eileen Clark did a lovely job with the
songs. But the dancing, while well done, was also not much to my taste
– a bit too much acting out of the songs.
When "Gloria" started I even forgot the awful perfume. The music
is so important to my enjoyment of a dance, and my favorite composer,
Vivaldi, was well performed by the GMU Singers and Chamber Orchestra conducted
by Dr. S. Engebretson, along with Eileen Clark, soprano, and Emily Eyre,
alto. "Gloria" was Mark Morris' first hit (original premiere
in 1981). It is still a wonderful, very interesting piece. There is a
very short opening scene, then the gorgeous music is played and sung.
The dancing starts in earnest with dancers moving across the floor on
their bellies, looking like creatures emerging from the primordial soup.
A wonderful dance that is open to many interpretations. For me it seemed
to symbolize the emergence and, ultimately, fall of Man.
An enlightening and enjoyable evening (except for the awful perfume).
Edited by Jeff.
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