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Mark Morris Dance Group - 03/23/05

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I attended the Mark Morris Dance Group's performance at Overture Hall in Madison, WI on March 23rd.

The program was as follows:

My Party (1984)

All Fours (2003)


Silhouettes (1999)

V (2001)

"My Party" kicked things off. I know this work is supposed to be FUN! but I found it grating beyond belief. There was something about the bright smiles plastered on the dancers' faces that rubbed me the wrong way. It was as if they were all saying, "Aren't we being clever?" And my response in my head was, "Not nearly as clever as you think you're being."

I also thought the dancing was ragged at times. Having not seen this work before, I'm not sure if an element of raggedness is part of the dance or not. But to me, the dancing looked frenetic -- and not by design.

The audience gave this a mild round of applause but no more.

"All Fours" reminded me a lot of the Old Masters of the High Modern Dance -- Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey and Jose Limon. The use of two couples and a chorus contributed to this impression as did the use of falls and floorwork. Seeing Bradon McDonald, a former Limon dancer, handle the various lunges so expertly really made the connection for me.

I had mixed feelings about this work as a whole. I thought the second section -- a duet of sorts between McDonald and Craig Biesecker -- was beautiful and, for me, was the highlight of the evening. Overall, though, I didn't think the different sections of the dance cohered very well. I never got a good sense of how the sections were connecting with one another. I'm not sure if this was a performance problem or a problem with the work itself.

Another mild round of applause led to the intermission. The mood at the intermission was kind of blah. Being my eavesdropping self, I heard several people in the lobby say that they had seen these works performed better elsewhere.

"Silhouettes" got the audience into it a little more. The dancing by Joe Bowie and David Leventhal was relaxed and assured and the dance itself carried on to a reasonably chipper end. Not a major work by any stretch of the imagination but it got a much louder response from the audience than the prior two works had.

The evening closed with "V". Let me start out by saying that I hated (and I mean HATED) the colors of the costumes. Graduation day blue and key lime pie green - YUCK!

The dance itself was dense but interesting. This was the first large group work of the evening where I thought the dancers were firing on all cylinders. There was an unbound quality to the dancing that was capitivating.

I thought the choreography was up-and-down. A sequence where the dancers travelled on all fours nearly put me to sleep. But a subsequent section with the male dancers was as electric as anything I have ever seen.

I think I would need to see this dance again to come to a more decisive conclusion about its merits. There was so much going on that I feel like I only absorbed part of it. The audience loved it, though -- it got the biggest hand of any of the works.

The evening concluded with the man himself -- Mark Morris -- taking a bow. Interestingly, the audience only got into applauding vigorously when he bounded on stage. Half the audience gave him a standing ovation (and the other half started heading for the exits.)

I have to say that, while I appreciated the choreography, admired the dancers and enjoyed the live musical accompaniment, I wasn't blown away by what I saw. Maybe it was an off night but I don't know that I would rush right back to see the company again. Sorry Morris fans!

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