Mark Morris’ RevelationBy Bence Olveczky
Mark Morris Dance Group
Mark Morris founded his own dance group at the tender age of 24, and he has since been an invigorating presence in the American dancescape. As is evident from his collaboration with cellist Yo-Yo Ma, who accompanied the group on its last Boston trip, Morris emphasizes the importance of music in his pieces, often making his choreographies seem like musical visualizations.
The first piece on last week’s program was The Argument, a dance featuring three couples. It is not so much a story, but a series of situations that emphasize the frictions relationships have to endure once the first blissful moments have past. The dancing is beautifully fitted to Schumann’s music for cello and piano, performed live to comply with Morris’ emphasis on music.
The Argument had its world premiere in Boston three years ago with both Mark Morris and his long time friend and collaborator Mikhail Baryshnikov among the dancers. This time Baryshnikov was absent and Morris danced in Peccadillos, a light-hearted solo piece that seemed to be about a kid wanting to emulate some hot dance moves he’s seen. Set to Eric Satie’s children’s etudes and performed on a toy piano by Ilan Richtman, the piece, while drawing a lot of laughter, also seemed rather self- indulgent. After all, Mark Morris is now 45 with a sizeable beer belly.
The evening also included V, a new piece that was recently hailed by the New York Times as being the greatest thing to have happened to modern dance in a decade. Such hype raises expectations beyond what any single piece can shoulder. V may be evocative, simple and deserving of praise, but it’s hardly an original achievement in the league of Merce Cunningham or Trisha Brown.
V has no characters and no story; rather, it emphasizes the emotions in Shuman’s Quintet For Strings and Piano on which it is based. V is the Roman numeral five and refers to the musical quintet, as well as the geometric formations in which the dancers start and end the piece. The fourteen dancers are all very accomplished, but Morris does not allow for any solos. He uses his dancers as a conductor uses his musicians, to create a symphonic whole whose end product exceeds the sum of its parts.
Seeing Mark Morris’ program, which also included The Office, was a revelation after having witnessed Boston Ballet’s botched attempt at celebrating American dance. Thankfully there will be more American ballet coming our way soon. Moses Pendleton brings his group Momix to the Emerson Majestic this weekend, and Alvin Ailey is scheduled to returned to the Wang Theater in mid-April.