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 Post subject: Mark Morris Dance Group - 25th Anniversary (2006)
PostPosted: Thu Mar 09, 2006 1:07 am 
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Press Rewind: It's Mark Morris in Miniature
by TOBI TOBIAS for the New York Times

The Mark Morris Dance Group will celebrate its 25th anniversary by appearing at the Brooklyn Academy of Music from Wednesday through March 25 in three programs of his major works. Equally compelling, among the many related events, are three hourlong programs of brief solos, duets and trios that Mr. Morris composed from 1980 to 2001.

published: March 5, 2006
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 09, 2006 1:49 am 
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Stomping and Flexing, and Some Vernal Romps, Too
by JOHN ROCKWELL for the New York Times

He is frequently praised and castigated for his sometimes slavish mimesis to music, and that tendency is particularly evident in "V." A viewer can become so caught up in trying to sort out Mr. Morris's responses to Schumann's intentions: seven dancers in one costume for the exposition, seven more in another for the repeat, a mixture for the development, a different kind of mixture for the return of the A-section, a hitching, staggered crawl to reflect the main theme of the second movement, and so it goes.

published: March 9, 2006
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 22, 2006 6:56 am 
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Mark Morris With His Offbeat Ways to Pass a Saturday Hour
by JOHN ROCKWELL for the New York Times

Also first-rate was June Omura taking over from Mr. Morris in "Jealousy" (1985), to the chorus "Jealousy! Infernal Pest" from Handel's "Hercules." Ms. Omura has a stocky body, maybe even a bit reminiscent of Mr. Morris's, and she caught the raging self-torture of this solo very well indeed.

published: March 13, 2006
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 22, 2006 7:12 am 
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Sidestepping the Camp in a Work by Stein and Thomson
by JENNIFER DUNNING for the New York Times

The slyness of Gertrude Stein's text sets the tone, but the piece needs to be simultaneously tongue-in-cheek and earnest. That precarious balance was struck perfectly in Mr. Morris's choreography, created for a staging in 2000.

published: March 18, 2006
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 23, 2006 2:24 am 
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Back-to-Back Glories
Operas from two centuries assume vibrant contemporary life
by DEBORAH JOWITT for the Village Voice

For each of these very different operas, Morris creates a style that is not quite what you might imagine but penetrates to the heart of the music.

published: March 21, 2006
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 27, 2006 1:44 pm 
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Dancing a Century's Music
A choreographer with a musical ear plumbs the limits
by DEBORAH JOWITT for the Village Voice

In Morris's new and lovely Candleflowerdance, as in Stravinsky's Serenade, variations and implications flower within limits. It may be no accident that the excellent pianist's hands stay mostly near the center of the keyboard. And just as the composer establishes a musical space and inhabits it, Morris creates an intense focus on a visual space: a medium-sized square that's defined by its white perimeter, taped to the floor in the middle of the stage.

published: March 24, 2006
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 29, 2006 1:39 am 
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Mark Morris Gets in Touch With His Inner Folk Dancer
by JENNIFER DUNNING for the New York Times

It is tempting to attribute Mr. Morris's distinctively sweet and goofy humanism at least in part to his teenage years performing with a Balkan folk dance troupe. And the new piece, set to Stravinsky's Serenade in A, is one of his most tender.

There is a gently elegiac feel to "Candleflowerdance," which Mr. Morris dedicated to Susan Sontag, a friend and a boisterous Morris fan.

published: March 24, 2006
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 24, 2006 11:25 am 
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Location: Seattle, WA, USA
The Mark Morris Dance Group performed in Portland, Oregon on Wednesday, April 19, 2006. Martha Ullman West previewed the program at some length in The Oregonian:

Martha Ullman West

Bob Hicks reviews the Wednesday performance in The Oregonian:

Bob Hicks


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 28, 2006 9:59 am 
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Location: Seattle, WA, USA
The Mark Morris Dance Group will appear at the University of Washington's Meany Hall from Thursday through Saturday, May 4-6, 2006. This is very likely to be the last performance sponsored by the UW World Series, which has sponsored the MMDG's appearances annually since the inception of the series. Meany Hall's 1200 seat capacity and the steadily increasing fees charged by the MMDG have been on a collision course for the past few years, with MMDG's losses (notwithstanding capacity audiences) requiring subsidy by revenues from companies that also draw capacity crowds but charge lower artist fees. A similar situation developed with the Ailey Company a decade or so ago. Ailey is now presented by the Seattle Theatre Group at the Paramount Theatre (capacity 2800). It may be time for the MMDG to seek similar sponsorship if its annual Seattle appearances are to continue.

Alice Kaderlan previews the MMDG performance in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

Seattle P-I


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PostPosted: Mon May 01, 2006 10:24 am 
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Mary Murfin Bayley interviews Mark Morris in the Seattle Times:

Seattle Times


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PostPosted: Mon May 08, 2006 10:48 am 
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Location: Seattle, WA, USA
Seattle press reviews of the MMDG at the University of Washington's Meany Hall in Seattle.

Alice Kaderlan in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

Seattle P-I

Robin Updike in the Seattle Times:

Seattle Times

At the Friday, May 5 performance, I was pleased to see that MMDG has produced a souvenir program book in commemoration of the company's 25th anniversary. At $10, it's a steal and highly recommended for anyone with an interest in where this company has been since 1981.


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PostPosted: Thu May 11, 2006 3:09 pm 
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Location: Seattle, WA. USA
A Hard Nut
Mark Morris Dance Group
Meany Hall Theatre World Dance Series
University of Washington, Seattle
Friday, 5 May 2006

by Dean Speer

The pre-performance lecturer polled those audience members who had been long-time Morris watchers, wanting to know how we felt his choreographic work may have evolved over the course of our observation.

I’ve known Mr. Morris since he was 16 years old* and dancing with the balalaika folk dance group associated at the time with Seattle’s Russian Center. While the lecturer only took one response, I did formulate an answer and that comes down to my belief that his work has become more mature. Certainly his talent as a dancer was very impressive early on. His talent too as a dance-maker exhibited fresh promise and bloom also right from the beginning.

Morris deploys the compositional tools of the choreographic trade such as repetition, variation, transference, and includes many inventive geometric patterns and groups. Many times he has lovely ideas and his dances are performed with great execution, yet for all of this I find they don’t go anywhere. I feel like I’ve had a visual tone bath but end up feeling hungry for a satisfactory resolution to his pieces. A good example of this is his large-scale and early success, “Gloria,” which first premiered in 1981 and was revised in 1984. It’s got some great things going for it – score by Vivaldi, some usual motifs such as the movement where the dancers crawl across the stage from right to left, intermittently broken up by a vertical sole dancer. He gives us great beginnings, good middles, but endings which are not necessarily conclusions. I’m reminded of how Balanchine once reported of how many times he’d make the ending of his ballets first so, as he put it, “he’d know where he needed to go and how to figure out how to get there.” Kind of a choreographic map. Doris Humphrey put it well when she wrote, “Never leave the ending to the end.”

Four works were presented and of these four, I found that I most enjoyed “Somebody’s Coming To See Me Tonight” set to 9 Stephen Foster songs, partly due to feeling like it did satisfactorily conclude, resolving sweetly. The dance dresses the women were in reminded me of some of the period costumes Graham used to make and also of Humphrey’s “Shakers” outfit minus the headpiece.

“Cargo” to Milhaud’s “La Création du monde” impressed me as having a similar jumping off point as that movie where a coke bottle that was tossed out of an airplane, changed the lives of an entire African family and village. In this case it’s a pole. With the program note reading, “Cargo Cults of the South Pacific believed that manufactured western goods (‘cargo’) were created for them by ancestral spirits.” This was the most recently made work on the bill and nicely demonstrated Morris’ increased maturity and mastery over works that tell a story, although “Cargo” is not literally narrative. It was clear that we were going somewhere with this piece, which ends tragically for one tribal member, thus spooking the rest.

Lyrical and at a ‘walking pace,’ “Rock of Ages” to the adagio movement from Schubert’s Piano trio in E flat is from 2004 and also a good example of a lovely piece but one that didn’t go anywhere. As reported to us eager audience members, apparently this dance can be re-configured for as many as 16 dancers, as few as four and for any combination of gender. I thought Morris said what he had to say early on but, as with the trap of pre-written music, extended the piece to the end of the music just because the music was of that particular length. The dance was longer than it needed to be and didn’t sustain and build itself.

Morris’ work can be a hard nut to crack. Often a veneer of cheerful (and sometimes goofy) accessibility but which actually defies pigeon-holing: some works do fall into “what you see is what you get” while others do have depth, an artistic maturity, a sculptured kinetic beauty and nearly always a fine-tuned responsive ear, revealing the aural mysteries and magic of the wide range of musical inspirations from which he draws. I believe some of the maturity stems from his now making dances on other people and less so for himself as he’s cut back on performing himself. It’s given him a different view or approach to making his art.

It’s also interesting to compare the work he does for his own company with that of commissions created elsewhere. I believe in his own mind, these fall into another category; almost a difference genre. One of these is entering Pacific Northwest Ballet’s repertory this coming season and it will be fun to see how it sits with both the dancers and the loyal PNB subscriber base. I suspect each will be pleased being able to enjoy some lively art made by one of Seattle’s home-grown own.

*I have to publically confess the whole story. It’s an interesting one – at least to me! At that time, I was around Morris’ age (plus ou moins!) and taking both ballet and Russian character dancing and Russian folk dancing. The Russian language teacher at my high school arranged for a couple of us to take a private class from Mark at the Russian Center. I never forgot meeting him, his mother (who observed from the couch), and how he just about killed us. It was a great class and seeing how difficult dancing could really be – and to the level of accomplishment one could attain – I was inspired by this challenge and resolved to become very serious about dance and to try to master it myself. So, unintentionally, he motivated me to pursue a career in dance. Which, after my body took three days to recover, I’ve done ever since!

_________________
Dean Speer
ballet@u.washington.edu


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PostPosted: Fri May 12, 2006 2:15 pm 
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Thank you Dean for a great review :D

It is so enjoyable (not a strong enough word, but how does one express this feeling?) to see someone's work who has been an inspiration!


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PostPosted: Fri May 12, 2006 3:14 pm 
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Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
My thanks too, Dean - a fascinating article.

As some one once said of the brilliant, but erratic cricketer, Keith Miller: "only mediocrity is always at its best." Morris's pieces don't always work - a classic example was "Four Saints in Three Acts", where he seemed to get stuck in a lack-lustre groove.

On the other hand: "L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato" is as complete a work as any I can think of from the past few years and can lay claim as one of the best ensemble works of the 20th Century; "Dancing Honeymoon" is as much fun as I have had in the theatre for a long time with wonderful use of space....and chairs; "Dido and Aeneas" had me in tears for lost love, even though it had Morris in two travesti roles; "Grand Duo" is one of the most exciting dance pieces I have seen and Christopher Bruce told me it was "a masterpiece"; "Drink to me only" is one of the most satisfying ballets I have seen in the past decade.

Like most artists, Morris doesn't always fire on all cylinders, but when it does come together, he remains one of the leading choreographers working today; as far as I am concerned - complete and deeply satisfying.


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 29, 2006 1:24 am 
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Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
Mark Morris and English National Opera have a big hit on their hands with a radical reinterpretation of Purcell's "King Arthur". Although it is equal parts opera and dance in the hands of Morris, all the reviews thus far are from opera critics.

King Arthur
By Tom Service for The Guardian

Mark Morris's new production of Purcell's King Arthur for English National Opera takes a radical view of this "semi-opera". His staging ditches all the spoken dialogue, written by John Dryden, leaving us with the glories of Purcell's music, and creating what Morris describes as a "a pageant - a sort of vaudeville". It's an entertainment in which the joyous energy of the Mark Morris Dance Group is as important as the roles taken by the singers.

click for more

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King Arthur
By RICHARD MORRISON for The Times

WHAT A witty, whimsical, mesmerising and meltingly beautiful entertainment the American choreographer Mark Morris has made of Henry Purcell’s semi-opera. It’s a village fête, a seaside show and a surreal pageant of British eccentrics from all eras and many mythologies, rolled into one and done with winning grace.

click for more

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Predictably, the Daily Telegraph gives a traditionalist view: "It's not funny!"
"Oh, yes it is!" shouts the audience...and me.

It's not clever, and it's not funny
Rupert Christiansen for The Daily Telegraph

Alas, I fear that Morris has lost the plot literally so, inasmuch as he has entirely dumped Dryden's spoken text and connecting narrative (such as it is), playing the show as a series of disconnected musical numbers with no underlying theme or coherence.

"Vaudeville" is the term Morris mentions in his programme note, but "dog's breakfast" is what came to my mind.

click for more

*****************************

King Arthur
By Edward Seckerson for The Independent

It may seem fanciful to suggest Mark Morris's rambunctious take on Purcell's King Arthur has its origins in morris dancing - but that's certainly part of it. That and centuries of provincial pageantry. Let's face it, the nation's heart was always to be found in village halls and on village greens all over the country. Amateur dramatics, rude mechanicals, mead and maypoles. None of it has escaped Morris. His randy vaudeville does for Purcell and John Dryden what Monty Python did for the Holy Grail. It's Spamalot with better singing and more dancing.

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