Mark Morris Dance Group
'L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato'
'Going Away Party,' 'All Fours,' 'Serenade,' 'Grand Duo'
by Lisa Claybaugh
September 5 and 12, 2003 -- Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley, CA
Mark Morris Dance Group returned to the Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall with
two triumphant programs. The company looked stronger and sleeker than
ever. Their new home in Brooklyn must be treating them well. They looked
well rehearsed and well adjusted, not an easy feat in today’s non-profit
With a full orchestra, chorus, costume shop and scene shop at his fingertips,
Mr. Morris was able to make a lovely work of high production value, large
in scope and movement with a unified artistic vision. The piece is set
to the music of Handel, a master of the Baroque style, with words by Milton.
The libretto was included in the program, which was nice touch as the
singers were, predictably, barely comprehensible and many of the movements
are directly connected to the text of the songs. A long section regarding
the nature of birds allowed the dancers (particularly Julie Worden and
David Leventhal) to do their best homage to "Swan Lake." Although
it could have looked ridiculous, the levity was balanced with earnest
The premiere, “All Fours,” was commissioned in part by Cal Performances, featured twelve dancers and was set to Bartok’s String Quartet #4. This was pure musical interpretation, serious in nature and spare in design. Eight dancers dressed in drab black street clothes opened the piece with rapid arm movements, intricate footwork and a good dose of angst. It is during choreography like this, set to music by Eastern European composers, that Mr. Morris’ folk dance background floats to the surface.
The first movement was followed by an extremely long pause, obviously
unintended, which was interrupted by Morris himself yelling, “Hello! Did
we break a string?” When the remaining quartet members answered in the
affirmative, Morris instructed his dancers (Craig Biesecker and Bradon
McDonald) to rest, as they had been holding a pose for several minutes,
and talked conversationally to the audience about this being the attraction
of live theater. Once the violist came back with a new string the performance
continued without further incident. The transitions in this four-movement
piece were particularly well done. As the dancers in the section were
exiting the dancers in the next section would wander on before the blackout.
The four soloists were dressed in varying shades of white and indulged
in some intricate partnering during the third movement before dissolving
into a lovely duet for the two women (Julie Worden and Marjorie Folkman).
This duet was reminiscent of the women’s duet from an earlier Morris piece
set to the Vivaldi “Gloria.”
Edited by Jeff.
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