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Mark Morris "Dido And Aeneas" in Virginia - 2/16/2008

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Mark Morris Dance Group brought his "Dido and Aeneas" to George Mason U. in Fairfax, Va. this weekend. The first thing most people noticed about the Saturday performance was that Dido/Sorceress was danced by a man! Fortunately Bradon McDonald didn't camp it up, gender-wise; Morris' choreography is camp enough by itself. What we got, was strong movement in a unisex role (danced by a woman, Amber Darragh, on Friday).

The stereotyped movements of this dance, inspired by dance poses found on ancient Greek vases and frescoes, were performed with great precision by the MMDG; again fortunately, since the choreography mirrors Purcell's music so closely that any imprecision would have been a disaster. The company was superb, I have never seen them dance stronger. As choreography, D&A works best in the Hornpipe; given actual dance music to dance against, the result is thrilling; Lauren Grant, as the featured Sailor, brought down the house!

The live music, from Purcell's opera, was a wonder; the MMDG Singers and Music Ensemble - together with the vocally beautiful, excellently phrased, and musically exquisite chorus of the George Mason University Singers - made an international class performance in their own right. I would have been deliriously happy just to listen to this musical performance, even as a stand-alone concert. Mark Morris conducted superbly, and I was blown away by Jamie Van Eyck's vocally rich and beautiful, supremely musical, emotionally moving Dido - on top of everything else, her diction was so excellent that every word of Purcell's text could be clearly understood.

Although all-too-short at only 60 minutes, I feel that this dance/concert in the ongoing MMDG/GMU partnership offered a truly uplifting experience. I only wish that the DC dance critics, and more DC dance lovers, would make the pilgrimage to Fairfax, Va (Oh no! It's so far! 30 minutes to the campus!) more often!

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