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Mark Morris reviews

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There are two reviews of the Mark Morris Dance Group on DanceViewWest today:

Paul Parish reviews l'Allegro, il Penseroso, ed il Moderato:

Majestic Harmony from a Different Time

The poems are "about' the active and the contemplative lives, but in form, each is an act of wizardry. Milton conjures like a wizard; every few lines he's invoking another spirit to come: Melancholy, or go: "Hence, vain deluding Joys!" The artist that works most like this nowadays is the cartoonist: think of the pink elephants in Dumbo, or the wild visual fantasias that accompanied Robin Williams's verbal cadenzas in The Little Mermaid. And so "laughter holding both his sides" makes an appearance like a demon taking possession of dancers rolling round the floor holding both their sides, and Fancy's child shows up as the force driving a dance that's so funny people who've never seen it before are laughing and crying and slapping themselves.

What makes the show work is that all this imagery—which can be shockingly literal, or graphic—rises like rainbows, or mirages or sandstorms, imperceptibly out of movement that is so rhythmically flexible and appropriate, you can not question the validity of the apparitions when they arise—or when they fade.

And Rachel Howards reviews the mixed rep program, including Morris's new dance, All Fours: A Dark Look at a Dark World

If the revival of L’Allegro lulled us with known comforts, the world premiere one week later caught us off-guard with its foreignness and risk, and broken violin strings proved the least of its treacheries. All Fours, set to Bartok’s disturbing fourth string quartet, is very unusual for Morris. So much of Morris’ work carries the pedigree of high modernism, and yet this new piece seems to channel the early 1930’s classic modernism of Graham and (as far as I can deduce not from first-hand viewing but from photos, reading, and videos) especially Humphrey. An eight-person chorus in black buzzes anxiously about the stage, stalking like birds of prey, raising hands in desperate prayer above heads. They are not, as in so many Morris dances, a group of individuals, but a mass, the faceless force of society itself. Their echelons and their faintly beatnik attire and especially the way they strike strident poses on the music’s harsh chords—arms held with clenched fists, one hand covering ear with the other held as if to keep an evil force at bay—speak from a different age.
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Mary Ellen Hunt in the Contra Costa Times:

Music, movement, Morris

One of Morris's best works in years, "All Fours" is a demanding, austere work for 12 dancers who illuminate the dense music, with both sharp percussive contractions of the upper back and long, graceful cursive lines through space. Filled with challenging complexity and beautiful imagery, such as the heart-stopping moment in which Biesecker catches Marjorie Folkman mid-stride as she runs past him, "All Fours" illustrates how emotionally moving pure, abstract movement can be.
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New dance by Morris, reviewed in the Chronicle:

Morris' 'All Fours' brings Bartok to life


Morris' 'All Fours' brings Bartok to life

Joshua Kosman, Chronicle Music Critic    Monday, September 15, 2003



One side effect of presenting dance with live music, as the Mark Morris Dance Group does on principle, is that mishaps may occur. And when they do, it helps to have someone on hand who can smooth things over as graciously as Morris did in Berkeley's Zellerbach Hall on Friday night.

It was shortly into the world premiere of "All Fours," Morris' vibrant and austerely beautiful new work set to Bartok's Fourth String Quartet, that the performance ran aground. The cause, it later emerged, was a broken viola string, but at the moment all the audience knew was that the break between the first and second movements was growing uncomfortably long.

And suddenly, there was Morris, sweeping down the aisle in his imperious sashay to put things right. Tartly silencing a foolish heckler, he instantly defused the tension in the hall.

"It's just a string break," he said, and then, to the musicians, "Just relax, take your time and tune up. There's no problem."

That combination of humane generosity and strict control is Morris' trademark as both a choreographer and a man, and it enlivened all of the works on this mixed-repertory program, presented by Cal Performances.

In their precisely calibrated patterning and dense formal logic, Morris' dances always display the presence of his carefully controlling visual and rhythmic imagination. But at the same time, there is an emotional subtext underlying even his most abstract creations that makes them feel richly, resolutely human.

"All Fours" is nothing if not abstract, a closely reasoned charcoal sketch in response to Bartok's music (superbly played by violinists Jonathan Gandelsman and Andrea Schultz, violist Jessica Troy and cellist Wolfram Koessel). The color scheme is stark, with black-and-white costumes by Martin Pakledinaz and lighting by Nicole Pearce (the latter with some incongruous splashes of red).

The piece responds with Morris' characteristic faithfulness to the outlines of Bartok's symmetrical five-movement formal plan. He devotes the outer movements to a corps of eight black-clad dancers, crafts male and female duets respectively for the second and fourth movements and places a spare but sumptuous excursion for four dancers at the center.

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