Music-Driven Movement Mark Morris Dancers Respond to Works from Bach to Yoko Ono

By April Austin, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, June 19, 1990 | Go to article overview

Music-Driven Movement Mark Morris Dancers Respond to Works from Bach to Yoko Ono


April Austin, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


MARK MORRIS has more than carved a niche for himself in modern dance, if anybody needs reminding. His six-show engagement in Boston, which ended Sunday, was a potent demonstration of the wit, theatricality, and musical sense of this American-born, Belgium-based dancer/choreographer.

Morris's works are bonded to music. It's hard to think of any modern choreographer who can match him in the fusion of movement to melody, which seems out of style in the stark imagery of most modern dance. He has created dances for his company, the Monnaie Dance Group, using everything from Brahms, Purcell, and Bach to Yoko Ono and country-and-western. He is a master of variations in tempo and rhythm, and his flourishes of humor are well-placed.

The Boston program - Morris opens at the Brooklyn Acadamy of Music tomorrow with a different work - began with the beautifully fluid "New Love Song Waltzes" set to Brahms. Morris has completely captured the rise and fall of the music and the currents underneath. He uses the momentum of Brahms's waltz rhythm, but not in a slavish or overtly pretty way. "Waltzes" lends itself to commentary about the permutations of relationships, the pull and release of emotion. There's also the sense of child's play, of games, in the dancers' attitudes.

The 20-odd dancers of the Monnaie are an enormously interesting bunch. They are of different ages, shapes, sizes, and temperaments. A few are uneven as performers, but the majority have shaped Morris's work to their own bodies and use his choreography persuasively.

Another strength of their performances is that the music is generally live. A quartet of Boston-area singers joined the Monnaie's two pianists for the Brahms. The vocal and piano ensemble was seamless, smooth, and exquisite, with particularly affecting work from tenor William Hite and mezzo Gloria Raymond. It was breath-catching stuff.

The most-anticipated piece, aptly named "Behemoth," was danced to silence. But here, it seems, Morris lost his magical touch. Danced against the back wall of the theater, the piece was accompanied only by the sounds of the dancers' feet and occasional hand claps (unless you count the rustles of programs, leg-shifts, or coughs in the audience). …

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