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Mark Morris Dance Group

'Mozart Dances'

by Ana Abad-Carles

July 4, 2007 -- Barbican Theatre, London, UK

Mark Morris Dance Group has become a regular company on London stages with their visits now becoming an annual event. On this occasion, rather than appearing in their regular host theatre, Sadler’s Wells, Morris’s group appeared at the Barbican Theatre – not a great venue for dance, but still capable of hosting some contemporary dance programmes.

Mozart Dances” is an ambitious new work by Mark Morris that consists of 3 different piano pieces composed by the Austrian genius: Piano Concerto No.11 in F major, K413, Sonata in D major for two pianos, K448 and the Piano Concerto No.27 in B flat major, K595. As with all Morris’s attempts at great music, the choreographer has not shied away from collaborating with the best musical talent in order to get an evening that, if only for the music enjoyment alone, is worth your money. Emanuel Ax, helped by Yoko Nozaki in the Sonata for two pianos and in the other two piano concertos by the orchestra of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, conducted by Jane Glover, could make a musical evening of its own. Adding extraordinary dance to it just makes it all a much more vibrant and enlightened experience.

Morris opens the evening with “Eleven”, a piece greatly created for his female dancers, though at the very opening there are male and female dancers on the stage. The movement Morris has given his women is big and angular in many cases, reminiscent of Greek sculptures.

The second part of the evening (and the most hilarious) is “Double”, featuring this time his male dancers. If the women in “Eleven” were heavy and angular, the men in “Double” are gentle and light, creating some really wonderful moments on the stage that are typically Morris.

The last part of the evening, “Twenty-Seven”, brings the two sections of the company together for a joyful end.

The piece as a whole works really well, thanks to Morris’s use of motifs that keep recurring throughout the piece, though – like in the music – in constant variation. Movement goes from group to group, a gesture is repeated in all different pieces, sequences are repeated in unison, in solos, in different spatial arrangements.  The use that Morris makes of Mozart’s music is that of a master choreographer in total command of his artistic tools.

I don’t think ever since Balanchine, dance has seen a choreographer so capable of visually orchestrating music in the way that Morris does. This does not mean that this kind of choreography is necessarily better than that coming from choreographers who respond instinctively to music’s logical patterns, it is simply a fact that when it does work – and though there is the danger of Mickey Mousing the scores – it looks ravishing. Of course, Morris has never been afraid of Mickey Mousing musical works, and in defying this very concept he has opened the doors to new choreographers to follow his route.

The company looked stylistically unified and moved in such a marvelous way – it was a delight to watch. There are few companies where movement is paramount over steps and positions, and Morris’s group is one of those rare examples where transitions and the sheer quality of the movement in those transitions make up the dance. Dancers do not hit positions, in fact, in a very Bournonville fashion, Morris always takes the finishing point as the point of departure for the next sequence, thus creating a flow of movement that is beautiful to watch.

The piece was well received by the audience, and Morris looked pleased with his dancers, the musicians and, why not, with himself!

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