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canbelto

Mark Morris choreography

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Ok ... not trying to start a war here ... but does anyone who "gets" Mark Morris choreography explain the appeal? I recently saw his production of Orfeo ed Euridice at the Met and his choreography just about ruined the evening for me. I've seen many of his other works and my reaction is the same. What am I missing?

https://humbledandoverwhelmed.blogspot.com/2019/10/orfeo-ed-euridice-dragged-to-pits-by.html

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I have thoughts but no time right now -- back later.

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Yeah except Balanchine really makes me "see the music." With Mark Morris I see the same steps over and over again to one piece of music.

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Did you see the Houston Ballet perform Morris’ “The Letter V” at City Center this week?  It was gorgeous, with inventive partnering and many little surprises. And at the first Fall for Dance program his own company performed a long excerpt from “V”, the beautiful work he did for them in 2011. 

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I love V actually as well as Empire Garden and Hard Nut. 

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5 hours ago, canbelto said:

 I love V actually as well as Empire Garden and Hard Nut. 

Hard Nut doesn't bring the magic of the music for me - see waltz of the flowers https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KX1Hm5kzc6s

 Perhaps the relatability to the general population's skill sets in dance is a factor in Morris' popularity for works not designed on dancers in ballet companies.   I love Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes.  

Edited by maps

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I love The Hard But.  It rings a different bell than classical and neoclassical versions I've seen, and that's fine, because, more for me.

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My son (a serious teenage ballet student) and I saw the Mark Morris "Letter V" last night at the Houston Ballet City Center performance. Keeping in mind that I am not at all an expert on ballet or dance in general, and certainly not on Mark Morris, this thread is interesting because of the conversation I had after seeing the performance. 

I had listened to an interview with Connor Walsh on Conversations on Dance https://conversationsondancepod.com/2019/10/16/connor-walsh/ where he talked about how closely Morris connects his choreography to the music, which I could definitely see (particularly being someone who has had a lot more formal training in music than dance). And I didn't just see it as the same steps done over and over, but as having been planned out- as with the music- to go from a solo theme into an intersecting group dynamic. My son had a different reaction- he said while he liked how tight it was, and well executed, that he felt distracted by it trying to "force" too many jokes and funny asides. He said it took him out of the experience of watching it, and I can see what he means-- he would have preferred the "jokes" to be more sparing. Was he not "getting it" maybe? and we were watching in a well-sold house, so there was the feedback of the audience reactions who were definitely responding to the (many) odd moments where the dancers come briefly out of a ballet idiom.  By contrast, he has seen the Hard Nut, and found it to be hilarious and enjoyable- in that he didn't find the humor to be at all distracting. 

I personally liked the restraint of a lot of the movement-- to me it doesn't look like anyone could do it, but its not in your face or flashy at all. However, the quickness and precision takes a lot of skill. And stylistically, that seemed a good fit with the Haydn.  I haven't seen a lot of Mark Morris though. And this was Houston Ballet performing. 

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2 hours ago, uptowner said:

 My son had a different reaction- he said while he liked how tight it was, and well executed, that he felt distracted by it trying to "force" too many jokes and funny asides. He said it took him out of the experience of watching it, and I can see what he means-- he would have preferred the "jokes" to be more sparing. Was he not "getting it" maybe? and we were watching in a well-sold house, so there was the feedback of the audience reactions who were definitely responding to the (many) odd moments where the dancers come briefly out of a ballet idiom.  

He is not the only one: I know plenty of people for whom this is the difference between loving him and having it be a deal-breaker.

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I'm from Seattle, and have been watching MM for most of his dance-making life.  While I think he's certainly matured over that time, some of the fundamental elements in his work remain the same -- he has always had a very clear understanding of music and a sophisticated ability to work with it structurally.  At the beginning, he set a lot of work to popular music (his work to the Louvin Brothers and to Yoko Ono were brilliant in the simplicity and clarity of working with lyrics/text) and often included some snarky and juvenile humor.   People do compare him to Balanchine, in part because of the musicality, and also because of the integrity of the construction, but that doesn't always fit -- Morris' early dance training included a lot of ballet, but I think his experience as a folk dancer and as a student of Spanish and Flamenco was integral to his development.  Balanchine's home base is always classical ballet, while Morris has a broader standing vocabulary.  He will often choose very simple material (walking, skipping, galloping) that reinforces the rhythmic pattern of the score, where Balanchine or another choreographer whose primary responses are drawn from ballet will choose something from that tradition.  But they do have this in common -- if you don't like the music they've chosen, you will not have a very good time in the theater. 

I haven't seen his Orfeo, and so cannot comment on it, but have you seen his Gloria, or L'Allegro, or Mozart Dances?  They all include examples of what you might think of as pedestrian movement, but for me, that creates a connection to the viewer that is powerful and direct.  My kinesthetic response to the work is profound in these works.

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12 minutes ago, canbelto said:

Uh oh. I accidentally deleted that Orfeo post. I tried to recover what I remember writing and consolidated it into a new post:

https://humbledandoverwhelmed.blogspot.com/2019/10/tucker-gala-2019-rbg-high-notes-and.html

I'm sorry -- that kind of glitch is such a frustration.

Looking at your truncated comments, though, makes me think that you really do miss the ballet vocabulary when you're watching Morris.  While I love ballet, my movement world is full of other stuff as well, which might account for the difference in our experience.

I did want to add, though, that I think MM's best works are for a group of people, rather than a solo or a duet.  I love the opening duet from Balanchine's Chaconne (and thanks for linking it!), and I likely wouldn't see something like that from MM, but there it is -- he's as much a decendent of Jose Greco and Doris Humphrey as he is of Balanchine and Petipa.

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L'allegro!

The Line Dance slays me every time.

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33 minutes ago, sandik said:

I'm sorry -- that kind of glitch is such a frustration.

Looking at your truncated comments, though, makes me think that you really do miss the ballet vocabulary when you're watching Morris.  While I love ballet, my movement world is full of other stuff as well, which might account for the difference in our experience.

I did want to add, though, that I think MM's best works are for a group of people, rather than a solo or a duet.  I love the opening duet from Balanchine's Chaconne (and thanks for linking it!), and I likely wouldn't see something like that from MM, but there it is -- he's as much a decendent of Jose Greco and Doris Humphrey as he is of Balanchine and Petipa.

But I don't miss the ballet choreography when I see Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham, Paul Taylor, even Pina Bausch. I can accept them for what they are and their movements as just as interesting. It's just Mark Morris where I find myself being frustrated by his favorite moves like the sways and the stomps and hops.

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8 hours ago, canbelto said:

But I don't miss the ballet choreography when I see Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham, Paul Taylor, even Pina Bausch. I can accept them for what they are and their movements as just as interesting. It's just Mark Morris where I find myself being frustrated by his favorite moves like the sways and the stomps and hops.

Do you watch much work made with pedestrian movement?  MM's work can be deceptive -- it's very hard to do those phrases with that intensity and clarity, but they are very clearly derived from material that we all do.  Is that what's troubling you?

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On ‎10‎/‎26‎/‎2019 at 11:52 AM, canbelto said:

... but does anyone who "gets" Mark Morris choreography explain the appeal? I recently saw his production of Orfeo ed Euridice at the Met and his choreography just about ruined the evening for me. I've seen many of his other works and my reaction is the same. What am I missing?

If you don't have anything good to say, come sit next to me! :)

I saw the Morris company years ago. The bill consisted of My Party, All Fours, Silhouettes and V. Other than the costumes for My Party, my memory of that night is one of sameness in regard to steps. Actually, the most memorable part of the evening had nothing to do with Morris' movement vocabulary. Instead, the highlight was when the master himself bounded up on stage from the audience to take a curtain call worthy of a silent film comedian or any Broadway musical diva. I had the urge to sing, "Well, hello Dolly . . . it's so nice to see you back where you belong!!" but I constrained myself.

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7 hours ago, sandik said:

Do you watch much work made with pedestrian movement?  MM's work can be deceptive -- it's very hard to do those phrases with that intensity and clarity, but they are very clearly derived from material that we all do.  Is that what's troubling you?

Yes actually I love hip hop dancing and break dancing. 

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I first saw Morris with a small group at Dance Theater Workshop early on. The choreography was set to Purcell which was an unusual choice at the time and was very finely crafted. It seemed more serious than light but I don’t remember a particular tone to it.

Later Morris’s ballets – which I’ve mostly seen in short sections from videos – always seem fluid and lively but with an element of (high) camp underneath and of the choreographer not taking himself too seriously. With the 1991 Nutcracker his strategy seemed to have been to banalize the overly-familiar and cliched passages, to make its magic seem ordinary (which was also an art world practice at the time). For instance, when the Christmas tree refuses grow, the parents and maid make awkward gestures of moving their necks as if they see it fill the room.

The Eleven clip is played over two different sections of the Mozart concerto without much loss of effect, so I’m not sure how closely the music is designed to the score. Balanchine sets choreography within choreography, such as a small dance for Suzanne Farrell at the end of Mozartiana responding to a solo clarinet – would Morris do something like that? Of Balanchine's works, I think Morris's sensibility might be compared to the witty Donizetti Variations but not to the later Symphony in Three Movements or Kammermusik No 2, which Ratmansky’s and sometimes Peck’s choreography remind me of.

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There is a lot that's been written about Morris, and sandik gave an excellent distillation of his influences, but if these things don't resonate, they don't resonate.

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On 10/29/2019 at 1:23 PM, Helene said:

There is a lot that's been written about Morris, and sandik gave an excellent distillation of his influences, but if these things don't resonate, they don't resonate.

Yeah. I guess that it goes as when the more you try to "get" L.H.O.O Q, the better you can recognize Mona Lisa's timeless transcendence.

Quiggin gave us the key word here: the aim to "banalize".

Edited by cubanmiamiboy

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