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Laura Jacobs on Mark Morris' "Sylvia"


kfw

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Writing in the October 2006 edition of The New Criterion, Laura Jacobs is no fan of Mark Morris' "Sylvia," or of "Mark Morris Ballet,"

a market phenomenon akin to an Andy Warhol silk-screen or a John Galliano fashion show

that comes with a set of ten do's and don't's, such as speak lovingly of the score but

don't feel you need to bring the same respect to the lineaments of classical dance. Awkward, reductive, even obnoxious poses and positions will show that ballet’s idealization of the human body is elitist and unnatural.

She compares his "Sylvia" to Ashton's:

Sylvia’s subject matter is love, and we all know that sensuality, sex, and lust are implicit in love. That Morris is interested in tipping the balance, bringing sex into parity with love, and going at it raw and randy where Ashton was sublimated, is a choice Morris is within his rights to make. But love of classical ballet is also a subject of Ashton’s Sylvia—an ardor that ennobles the story—and love of classical ballet is not a subject of Morris’s. He can profess it, but he cannot produce it. As with so many modern dance choreographers who think they have something to say “in ballet,” toe shoes—the deep spring of this language, the soul of this art—defy him. Morris’s pointe work asks for little roll through the foot, has no fascination with the floor, no connection to the clouds or to daily class (quite often a dark cloud in which one’s flaws are flayed). His pointes are tight and stilty. From the first moment of Sylvia, when the dryads bourrée in from the wings, they look boxed-in—and they are. They’re in sixth position, which is turned-in. And these are supposed to be wild things!
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