Mark Morris Dance Group – Programme A: The Muir; Crosswalk; Socrates

The Muir

The Muir
Dancers – Rita Donahue, Laurel Lynch, Dallas McMurray, Billy Smith, Noah Vinson, Michelle Yard

Jenni France, Zach Finkelstein, Johnny Herford (singers) & Jesse Mills, Ben Shibolet, Colin Fowler (musicians)

Ludwig van Beethoven – Music [arrangements of Scottish and Irish folk songs]
Elizabeth Kurzman – Costumes
Nicole Pearce – Lighting

Dancers – Chelsea Lynne Acree, Sam Black, Benjamin Freedman, Brian Lawson, Aaron Loux, Laurel Lynch, Stacy Martorana, Dallas McMurray, Spence Ramirez, Billy Smith, Noah Vinson

Jenni France, Zach Finkelstein, Johnny Herford (singers) & Todd Palmer, Colin Fowler (musicians)

Carl Maria von Weber – Music [Grand duo concertant, Op.48]
Elizabeth Kurzman – Costumes
Michael Chybowski – Lighting

Dancers – Chelsea Lynne Acree, Sam Black, Rita Donahue, Lesley Garrison, Lauren Grant, Aaron Loux, Laurel Lynch, Stacy Martorana, Dallas McMurray, Maile Okamura, Spence Ramirez, Billy Smith, Noah Vinson, Jenn Weddel, Michelle Yard

Zach Finkelstein (singer) & Colin Fowler (musician)

Erik Satie – Music [Socrates]
Martin Pakledinaz – Costumes
Michael Chybowski – Lighting

0 of 5 stars

Reviewed by: G. J. Dowler

Reviewed: 27 November, 2013
Venue: Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London EC1

The Muir, Mark Morris Dance Company. Photograph: © Richard TermineWhat makes Mark Morris works so satisfying? That he employs simplicity of means – often a plain backdrop – most certainly; that he is musically sophisticated and of the most catholic taste, undoubtedly. That he uses that music in an organic manner, his movements growing from it rather than overlaying it. Ultimately, it stems from Morris’s deep humanity which permeates each and every piece he creates and establishes a glorious bond between stage and audience.

In the first of two programmes offered at Sadler’s Wells, Morris brings three works of startling contrast yet unified by the attributes outlined. The first, The Muir, a gallimaufry to a selection of Irish and Scottish songs set by Beethoven, bubbles and burbles with infectious motion, a sextet of Morris characterful dancers (how gratifying to see dancers who look like people who can dance rather than etiolated clones and who, the heavens be praised, smile). Dancers are barefoot, costumes are simple, the women in extravagant in long dresses with cross-ribboned bodices evocative of the check of a tartan, the men in loose shirt and slightly short moleskin trousers in what is now forever imprinted on my mind as ‘hobbit chic’. Combinations of the six change with the songs, the movement is generally sunny and simple – it is Morris’s genius, for genius he is, to bring such joy from simplicity – and all emerging from the wonderfully played and sung collection of songs. Only in the last, The lovely lass of Inverness Op.108/8 does the mood become more melancholy, dancers pacing the stage, falling, yearning. It captures the stratum of somberness that runs through the Celtic psyche and the work ends quietly.

L to R: Chelsea Acree, Laurel Lynch, Billy Smith, Stacy Martorana (Crosswalk, Mark Morris Dance Company). Photograph: Stephanie BergerCrosswalk has much of the playground about it: three women clad in tangerine and orange, eight men in white t-shirts and dark trousers skipping through the curlicues of Weber’s Grand duo concertant. But it is not, of course, just skipping, as sequences of movements, some balletic, some vernacular – this is trademark Morris – are repeated, adapted, reconfigured, all generally along the axis of the stage. There is wit, there is fun and above all there is glorious movement; Morris’s dancers are at home utterly in his idiom and completely attuned to each other so that this becomes an ensemble of individuals.

To finish, the cool, Apollonian Socrates. This is a work that can only have been made by a master, and one completely confident in himself. Satie’s little-known song cycle on the Greek playwright is by no means a ClassicFM favourite: a recondite work which is, nevertheless, a delight for fans of French song. That Morris has chosen such a subtle and delicate work is testament to his musical sophistication, for what he has created is a sensitive visualisation of the music with deftly engineered visual references to the narrative of the songs without heavy and literal depiction of events. It is a cool, measured work, rhythmically repetitive, dancers dressed in chitons and Greek skirts in a selection of slightly muted colours, but its effect is cumulative, and as the entire cast of fifteen lie down and raise themselves ever so slightly as the music (and Socrates’s life) finally ebbs away, it has achieved its purpose.

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