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Mark Morris Live from Lincoln CenterPBS 16 August 2007 @ 8pm


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#16 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 17 August 2007 - 09:50 AM

[SanderO] It reminded me of abstract art ...


Interesting. I don’t think of Morris as a particularly “abstract” choreographer – no more “abstract” than Balanchine, for instance. I find his work to be emotionally legible in the much the same way that Balanchine’s is – there’s no narrative that one can really articulate in words, but there’s definitely a “story.” In contrast, I find Forsythe and Elo, for example, to be very abstract – no stories there at all, really, just states-of-being. (Wheeldon has it both ways in After the Rain.)

I like Morris’ work a lot, and find it plenty formal in its overall structure, but I did find the bodies very difficult to “read” at first since my previous dance watching experience consisted primarily of Balanchine, Robbins, Cunningham, Taylor, and Graham – and to my eyes those choreographers (and ballet in general) deploy the body in very clearly delineated shapes that hew closely to an ideal armature or grid, whether in motion or in stasis. Morris’ dancers’ bodies don’t quite do that – I’m not suggesting that it is actually so, but in motion at least, their placement looks somehow “approximate” – i.e., not working to an ideal plane: they’re not exactly turned out, but they’re not exactly not turned out either. (Interestingly enough, the shapes Morris’ dancers make look much more clearly delineated and carefully placed in still photos than they do live or in video.) It took me a while to get my head wrapped around this.

I find Morris’ choreography for soloists relatively (and I stress relatively) uninteresting. But his work for two or more dancers – now that I find thoroughly engaging and affecting. To me, these larger shapes seem to resonate more and carry more meaning than the solo work does, and his vocabulary for groups seems richer than his vocabulary for soloists.

Personally, I like the goofy stuff too. The second section of Mozart Dances is high on my list of favorite Morris, but my absolute favorite Morris is when the deliriously joyful Hard Nut Snowflakes explode handfuls of glitter skyward as they hurtle full tilt across the stage – it makes me laugh out loud from sheer delight every single time. The mix of bodies and genders in the same tutus-n-snowcone crown costumes is just wonderful – as if Morris decided to take the inverse of Balanchine and put “everybody -- the world” on stage to get sixteen girls ...

Anyway, I'm heading off to see Mozart Dances again tonight and I'm really looking forward to it!

#17 bart

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Posted 17 August 2007 - 10:12 AM

Joan Acocella's piece on this program, "Mozart Moves: Mark Morris at Lincoln Center," is in this weeks's (8/20) New Yorker, and is available on line here:
http://www.newyorker...ancing_acocella

I especially like her high regard for his dancers:

[ ... ] [T]hese people are accomplishing wonders, and they don't seem to know it. They have no "stage manner," no narcissism. Neither are they closed. They are simply frank and regular: people doing a dance.

[ ... ] How does Morris get his dancers to perform so unaffectedly? I don't know the answer, and I almost don't want to know -- I want to believe they're just that way -- but here's something that Morris told me when we talked last summer: that, in making the women's dance in "Eleven" so severe, he was trying to extend them. When women put on pretty dresses and dance to Mozart, he said, they tend to go into "a group hug." He didn't want that; he forced them to be sharp and hard. With the men, it was the opposite. They're used to being hard, so he made them "dance in circles, nourishing, nesting."

There's quite a bit more. It's a superb piece. And it convinces you that Morris's dancers, under his tutelage, have indeed become a "great" ensemble of artists. I can't wait to see them again ... :FIREdevil:

#18 4mrdncr

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Posted 17 August 2007 - 12:22 PM

Just caught half of the PBS telecast--no local promos of course, so thanks for "Heads Up" at BT. I do agree with some of the queries of SanderO, and some of Ray's (et.al.) answers. Yes, I saw choreographic similarities to other contemporaries, better use of groups than individuals, and whimsy; in fact, that ironic glint is something I actually look for in his work. But the one thing I ALWAYS see in MM (unlike SanderO) is the musicality--even that "slavish" literal interpretation of each and every note--which sometimes I am VERY glad to see, and other times wish he would break free. I didn't mind the splotchy backdrops and the insertion of some color--beside lighting--into the monochrome costuming. Overall, though I appreciate MM, the chances to see him work, and the many many ways he has brought dance into the lives of people who normally never have a chance to see it, I do prefer women on pointe and classical structure.

#19 Klavier

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Posted 17 August 2007 - 12:49 PM

BTW I hated the way they filmed it for PBS--all those cutaways to the musicians, as if the movements of their playing were as important to see as the movements/formations of the dancers!


I rather like seeing a pianist's hands, but that could have been shown from time to time in a small window at lower screen left or right, rather than cutting away from the stage. I suppose the producers are afraid we'll be bored if the cameras don't move around whenever they can. With televised orchestra concerts it's even worse. But then again, people sitting at a live performance manage somehow to enjoy it without leaving their seats every two minutes to get a different view. For dance, I think the ideal solution is to place a camera dead center and mostly leave it there, so you always have the full stage perspective, except for closeups of solo dancers where there is no other stage activity.

#20 bart

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Posted 17 August 2007 - 12:57 PM

BTW I hated the way they filmed it for PBS--all those cutaways to the musicians, as if the movements of their playing were as important to see as the movements/formations of the dancers!

Ray, I can identify with your frustration, as a dance lover. But I can also imagine the producers thinking of this as a joint music/dance production, and realizing that a certain percentage of the audience might be there for Emanuel Ax and Yoko Nozaki. After all, it's "Mozart Dances" (ambiguously phrased) rather than "Dancing to Mozart."

#21 carbro

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Posted 17 August 2007 - 01:51 PM

"Mozart Dances" is Morris' title of his work, but the performance is part of the Mostly Mozart Festival. I didn't see the broadcast, so I don't know what sort of context this was placed in, but acknowledgment of the musical emphasis of MoMo -- discretely inserted -- seems very appropriate.

The bit about Beverly Sills was very enjoyable, I wished that had more of her singing and less MCing and smiling.

A tribute, I'm sure, from her Live from LC colleagues to her contributions as series host for so many years.

#22 kfw

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Posted 17 August 2007 - 03:32 PM

BTW I hated the way they filmed it for PBS--all those cutaways to the musicians, as if the movements of their playing were as important to see as the movements/formations of the dancers!

Ray, I can identify with your frustration, as a dance lover. But I can also imagine the producers thinking of this as a joint music/dance production, and realizing that a certain percentage of the audience might be there for Emanuel Ax and Yoko Nozaki. After all, it's "Mozart Dances" (ambiguosly phrased) rather than "Dancing to Mozart."

I can see your point, but if that was their concern, I wish they would have billed the program so as to clarify what it was -- or else billed it as "Mark Morris' "Mozart Dances, interrupted by shots of Emmanuel Ax." He's fun to watch, and I especially enjoyed the sonata footage, but Morris put him in the pit, where ticketholders in many of the best seats can't see him even if they want to, and I wish Live from Lincoln Center would have given us the work he conceived and not tried to make it all things to all people.

I'd seen little of Morris' work before last night and I'm still sorting out my feelings about this piece, but I was moved in many places, by the camaraderie in "Double," for example, and by the dignified opening of the adagio for "Eleven," where the dancers stride on stage one by one and stop at various places, all facing the same direction.

It took me awhile to get past the black and filmy outfits in "Eleven," which struck me as some sort of dreary bedroom-wear. The color black itself seemed at first a strange choice for Mozart, but it grew on me: he himself supplies enough color, so to speak, so that Lauren Grant's simple black dress seemed fitting. And I much prefer it to the sort of pastel prettiness I can imagine from a ballet company.

#23 SanderO

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Posted 17 August 2007 - 04:28 PM

In the Upper Room has amazing use of color... but it also has that continual anticipation of the never to come crescendo Philip Glass music. Don't you feel drained after seeing it. Like good sex or doing a double diamond shalom without falling? I think Twyla would do... if she hasn't done already... some incredible choreography to Mozart with great color. I don't know how much choreographers think about color... but they should.

#24 Ray

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Posted 18 August 2007 - 07:58 AM

BTW I hated the way they filmed it for PBS--all those cutaways to the musicians, as if the movements of their playing were as important to see as the movements/formations of the dancers!

Ray, I can identify with your frustration, as a dance lover. But I can also imagine the producers thinking of this as a joint music/dance production, and realizing that a certain percentage of the audience might be there for Emanuel Ax and Yoko Nozaki. After all, it's "Mozart Dances" (ambiguosly phrased) rather than "Dancing to Mozart."

I can see your point, but if that was their concern, I wish they would have billed the program so as to clarify what it was -- or else billed it as "Mark Morris' "Mozart Dances, interrupted by shots of Emmanuel Ax." He's fun to watch, and I especially enjoyed the sonata footage, but Morris put him in the pit, where ticketholders in many of the best seats can't see him even if they want to, and I wish Live from Lincoln Center would have given us the work he conceived and not tried to make it all things to all people.



Thank you, kfw; very well put. I mean we should think of the analogue in music or opera: what if they just stopped playing the music or singing in the middle of a piece to cut away to something else? I really got the sense from whoever was doing the editing that "the dancers are repeating movement, so it's ok now to cut away to Ax." Again, think opera--the Queen of the Night in Magic Flute repeats quite a few vocal lines!

Plus I wasn't crazy about the camera work even when it was focused on the dancers--too many closeups at inappropriate times, to my taste.

#25 Ray

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Posted 18 August 2007 - 07:59 AM

In the Upper Room has amazing use of color... but it also has that continual anticipation of the never to come crescendo Philip Glass music. Don't you feel drained after seeing it. Like good sex or doing a double diamond shalom without falling? I think Twyla would do... if she hasn't done already... some incredible choreography to Mozart with great color. I don't know how much choreographers think about color... but they should.


Shen Wei is a modern choreographer who I think is very sensitive to color.

#26 Helene

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Posted 18 August 2007 - 08:55 AM

Two reviews of Mozart Dances:

Alastair Macaulay: Morris Meets Amadeus: Odd, Elective Affinities

Clive Barnes: STAYIN' IN STEP WITH MOZART

#27 Klavier

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Posted 18 August 2007 - 09:10 AM

Thank you, kfw; very well put. I mean we should think of the analogue in music or opera: what if they just stopped playing the music or singing in the middle of a piece to cut away to something else? I really got the sense from whoever was doing the editing that "the dancers are repeating movement, so it's ok now to cut away to Ax." Again, think opera--the Queen of the Night in Magic Flute repeats quite a few vocal lines!

Plus I wasn't crazy about the camera work even when it was focused on the dancers--too many closeups at inappropriate times, to my taste.


As it was being broadcast, I was capturing it to my computer to make a DVD, while watching :) SYTYCD on the TV in another room. But spot-checking my home-made DVD later, one point in particular was for me objectionable in the camera work: this is in the finale of 27, at the point one of the boys runs diagonally upstage into the arms of another man. This is just caught on camera before they cut away to Ax playing a cadenza, and then returns to stage view as the embrace ends. It was one of the most memorable points in the ballet when I saw it live last year, and leads me to wonder whether "the dancers are repeating movement, so it's ok now to cut away to Ax" or "a guy is in the arms of another guy, so we're not sure how that's going to play in the Bible Belt."

#28 Klavier

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Posted 18 August 2007 - 09:16 AM

Two reviews of Mozart Dances:

Alastair Macaulay: Morris Meets Amadeus: Odd, Elective Affinities

Clive Barnes: STAYIN' IN STEP WITH MOZART



Points up the difference between an aware, articulate reviewer and a mediocrity.

#29 Ray

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Posted 18 August 2007 - 09:28 AM

As it was being broadcast, I was capturing it to my computer to make a DVD, while watching :) SYTYCD on the TV in another room. But spot-checking my home-made DVD later, one point in particular was for me objectionable in the camera work: this is in the finale of 27, at the point one of the boys runs diagonally upstage into the arms of another man. This is just caught on camera before they cut away to Ax playing a cadenza, and then returns to stage view as the embrace ends. It was one of the most memorable points in the ballet when I saw it live last year, and leads me to wonder whether "the dancers are repeating movement, so it's ok now to cut away to Ax" or "a guy is in the arms of another guy, so we're not sure how that's going to play in the Bible Belt."


I hadn't noticed that--thanks for pointing it out--but knowing PBS I wouldn't be at all surprised if that were the reason for the cutaway.

#30 Jack Reed

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Posted 18 August 2007 - 01:50 PM

By way of continuing the discussion of scheduling this show, we're getting it in this particular boondock once only, Monday, 20th August, at 10PM. But then, we get three performances on stage the following weekend in the Harris Theatre. So, is the local PBS audience different from the local dance audience? I can't figure it out.

It'll be a nice warmup, I hope, botched camerawork and all. (Thanks for those comments everybody, they'll lessen the shock when I watch the broadcast.)


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