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Mark Morris Dance Group

'Grand Duo,' 'I Don't Want to Love,' 'V,' 'Peccadillos'

by Lyndsey Winship

October 21, 2001 - Sadler's Wells, London

What is the simple joy in watching figures move in unison? How can you explain the sheer pleasure in the perfect alignment of arms, legs and heads? Perhaps because it foils the disarray of real life; its unpredictability, its dislocation, the patchwork of ideas, paces and possibilities. There is something defiantly affirmative about 14 bodies leaping in sync, and a sense of resolution that is inherently satisfying.

For all the canon and counterpoint in Mark Morris' choreography, the real high point of his programme at Sadlers Wells is during the magnificent "Grand Duo" when his dancers function as a kind of neo-chorus line, their bodies making large statements and perfect tableaux. "Grand Duo" is Morris at his best, and feels like everything dance should be. There is a connection and immediacy which underlines the power of live dance, and a balance -- between steps, between dancers and between the choreography and the music -- which seals the work complete.

There is no battle for attention. When two tribes of dancers are set in dialogue they only serve to compliment each other, just as Lou Harrison's rolling, melodic, mournful music is the perfect partner for Morris' driving dance.

The other works of the evening might not have quite the same sense of completeness that pervades "Grand Duo," but they still reveal a masterful and instinctively musical choreographer. Only in "I Don't Want to Love", a lyrical sweep through seven Monteverdi madrigals, do the bittersweet suspensions of the music threaten to steal from the movement on stage, which doesn't quite step into such sublime cadences.

A new work, "V," finds easy affinity with Schumann's Quintet in E flat. Its Romanticism lets the company indulge in more balletic moments whilst remaining true to their resolutely 'turned-in' contemporary roots. The charm of Morris is that he can meld styles and shift structures without any step seeming out of place, and his company -- tight, precise and perfectly poised -- can fall from a rose adagio to crawling on all fours with effortless grace.

When Morris takes the stage himself, for the solo "Peccadillos" set to Satie's mesmerising (if slightly Toytown) piano pieces, the door into his dreamlike danceworld swings open. In the way that the sleeping brain connects disparate thoughts, occurences, memories and rolls them into a narrative that seems perfectly natural, Morris subtly skips his way through highland flings, cossack kicks, vaudeville tap and the prim pout of the pantomime dame. And it all makes perfect sense. With weightless steps and utter strength he holds the audience rapt with his imagination, and his undoubtable command of the stage.

Edited by Jeff

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