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Flash Review 3, 3-19:
Morris Note for Note
Pecidillos at the Office as Mosaic and United Dance a Grand Duo
of a Honeymoon
By Terry Hollis
Copyright 2001 Terry Hollis
Mark Morris has a good
time with a piece of music and everyone knows that; except the two
women sitting behind me Thursday at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
After Mark Morris Dance Group finished "Mosaic and United," one
of them thought it was a shame to chain such beautiful dancers to
every single note. Her companion thought that this made the work
that much more beautiful because Morris doesn't reduce the music
to a mere backdrop, to which her friend replied, "That's only if
you believe music is automatically reduced in the presence of dance"
(I was eavesdropping, by the way). I didn't get to hear how the
conversation turned out because they left before "Grand Duo," which
is too bad because it had a little something for both of them. It's
true that the academic approach does get dry, even on such a grand
scale with great performers (by the end of the evening I prayed
for one spontaneous moment, a mistake, something!), and Morris can
put a lot of effort into being witty and original. But, originality
does win out a lot of the time and the combination of high-brow
and low-brow is complete because he ain't faking either one.
"Mosaic and United,"
to music by Henry Cowell, shows five separate worlds existing on
the same stage, each one carrying out the patterns of the music
in its own time. Even though they do move close to each other and
even touch, they never seem like they're on the same stage and the
piece does become a little astringent as it moves along. There is
beauty in the fact that the geometric couplings attach and detach
from each other like Lego pieces, forming some nice tableaus, and
although there is no emotional undercurrent there are some plain,
powerful moments. Lauren Grant lying on her back with her arms and
legs splayed upwards piles need, pain, and helplessness into one
picture. The Mosaic Quartet was intended to be played in any order,
leaving the movements completely unattached, and while the dance
does keep the performers "separate" it has nothing to do with independence.
Going back to Morris's folk dance roots, it reinforces his "each
one makes up the whole" philosophy.
Indulgence. That's the
word that kept popping up while I watched Mark Morris perform "Peccadillos."
From the moment the curtain went up to reveal Ethan Iverson sitting
at a toy piano I got a queasy feeling in my stomach. Pecking out
Erik Satie's children's etudes from 1913, Iverson guides Morris
through a series of indulgences that the audience loved. The only
thing that saved the piece for me was a series of priceless jetes
at the end that evoke the image of a hefty kid on the last day of
One of things that I
like about "Dancing Honeymoon" is that it's so damn bright. The
piece looks like yellow and white hard candy and the layer of dance
hall theatrics is a chance to relax from the "haute-art" that goes
on at these things. To British music hall songs by Gertrude Lawrence
and Jack Buchanan (sung by Eileen Clark), the dancers swirl from
scene to scene depicting the humorous lyrics of "A Cup Of Coffee,"
"Goodnight, Vienna," "Who," and other tunes. During "Goodnight,
Vienna" the dancers drape over their chairs giving a final film
noir/femme fatale slap of the hand, and Charlton Boyd dragging his
chair might as well be walking through a piazza. The piece is driven
by the innocent, eager to please energy of the music hall; there's
even a built-in bow at the end that you're not quite sure is part
of the dance.
"The Office" appears
to be an homage to anyone who has ever dealt with the drudgery of
the brown and gray world of 9-to-5. One of the best jokes in the
piece is the painfully normal, nondescript chairs lined up across
the back of the stage. The workers here engage each other in a series
of group dances that get smaller and smaller as a highly stern Mireille
Radwan-Dana shows up to led them off to...(execution?). At the end
there is only a slightly confused Marjorie Folkman left to sit and
The last work of the
evening turned out to be a pretty nasty customer. "Grand Duo" presents
a base, primitive society of people that seem to be living below
the surface. The music, Lou Harrison's Grand Duo for Violin and
Piano, surrounds their world with low resonant sound that seems
to bully the dancers around. The piece is abstract, but the mood
is so intense that you almost have to assign emotional foundations
to each section. In 'Mosaic and United" the dancers come together
because of logic; here they seem to cling together out of fear or
for survival. The finale, a fearsome polka, makes them seem like
puppets subjected to endless strings of repetitions and contortions.
Overall it's difficult to get a grasp on the piece as a whole because
there doesn't seem to be a through line, but each section establishes
itself as a different layer of this world so well that you really
Mark Morris Dance Group
continues at BAM through Sunday, with this program repeating tomorrow
night at 7:30.
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