| go to entry page | | go to other departments |



Jack Anderson

Mark Morris Premieres

Four Saints in Three Acts--childlike and playful without lapsing into silliness or camp.

Mark Morris Dance Group
March 8-25, 2006
Evenings at 7:30, $70, $60, $40, $20
Brooklyn Academy of Music, 30 Lafayette Avenue, Fort Greene, Brooklyn
Tickets: (718) 636-4100
Reviewed by Jack Anderson March 23, 2006

The New York premieres of the Mark Morris Dance Group's 25th anniversary season at the Brooklyn Academy of Music came during the company's final set of performances (March 22-25). Morris did not save his best for last.

These were odd pieces. That can also be said of some of his most stimulating creations. But these odd dances remained unconvincing.

A program note said that Morris's "Cargo," to Milhaud's jazzy "Création du Monde," was inspired by Cargo Cultists of the South Pacific who believed that manufactured Western goods were "created for them by ancestral spirits."

The choreographic result was a ritual in which scantily-clad dancers, presumably representing members of some tribe, regarded a pole with wonder, then proceeded to tilt it, raise it erect as a phallus, and dangle from it. When they eventually gained and squabbled over three poles, the action conceivably could be interpreted as a commentary on humanity's desire for, and acquisition of, material objects.

But Morris's tribal figures never grew vivid, and the way the choreography emphasized crouched stances and simian loping and lurching proved troublesome. Whatever Morris's intentions were, his dance seemed self-consciously "primitive" in a way that the accompaniment is not. The score sounds as if Milhaud loves jazz and is welcoming the opportunity to compose in a jazzy style. But the dance led me to a reluctant conclusion. Although I am often annoyed by "politically correct" artistic nitpicking, I nevertheless thought, and I was surprised to find myself thinking so, that Morris had adopted a quite condescending attitude toward non-literate cultures. Whatever society they may have come from, his people appeared only semi-human.

According to the program, Morris dedicated "Candleflowerdance," the second premiere, to Susan Sontag. This miniature to Stravinsky's "Serenade in A" did indeed have the look of a tribute. Dancers kept entering and leaving the confines of a rectangle on the floor, often pointing solemnly upward and outward. And there were moments when they raised their hands to their eyes as if wiping away tears. Everything was dignified, without being especially poignant.

Fortunately, there was more substantial fare to admire or argue over. For me, some of the fervor has gone from "V." Just as in the past, many viewers found Morris's production of Purcell's "Dido and Aeneas" a striking attempt to devise a choreographic equivalent for the theatrical "grand manner," while others considered it pretentious posturing. I found the posturing especially pretentious this season when the roles of Dido and Sorceress, both of which Morris once danced, were now divided between two dancers, who lacked his gestural power.

But "Grand Duo" retained its troll-like gusto. "Gloria," which Morris competently conducted, shone with great radiance. And his staging of the Gertrude Stein-Virgil Thomson "Four Saints in Three Acts" was childlike and playful without lapsing into silliness or camp.


| home | discounts | welcome | search |
| museums | NYTW mail | recordings | coupons | publications | classified |