Overview: Extra Mark Morris Video Dances, Extra Postcards to Followers
The Mark Morris Dance Group’s fortieth season started on Thursday with the debut of 5 video dances. Forty years is a milestone, and new work by Mr. Morris at all times raises hopes of one thing particular, however essentially the most telling moments got here throughout a Q. and A.
When dwell and in-person efficiency is once more attainable, a viewer requested, would Mr. Morris contemplate transferring these new video works to the stage?
“No,” he answered with comical terseness.
“It’s not what they’re for,” he continued after a second, explaining that these dances can be, for one, “unsatisfyingly quick” onstage. Every is “meant to be like a business,” he mentioned, “which it will be if we made cash.”
I’d say they’re extra like placeholders, or digital postcards to followers. As with the video dances that the corporate offered in Could, this on-line program — out there on YouTube, with donations requested — has as a lot banter and filler as dance-film content material. In between alternatives, the group’s musical director, Colin Fowler, provides musical trivia whereas Mr. Morris peppers straight speak about course of with an infinite provide of puns.
This time, the video dances are available two classes: novel experiments and variations of present repertory. Neither method will get very far.
An excerpt from Mr. Morris’s choreography for the Azerbaijani opera “Layla and Majnun,” one of the vital lovely and heartbreaking dance works of the previous decade, is at greatest a teaser. A piece of his complicated and unusual “Empire Backyard” (2009) guarantees to make use of video to light up the strict correspondences between the choreography and the troublesome Charles Ives rating (in a brand new recording with Yo-Yo Ma on cello and on digital camera). However the visible outcome — a quilt of our bodies in packing containers — doesn’t have the clarifying coherence of the stage model.
In “Offertorium,” a hardly ever carried out solo to sacred Schubert music that Mr. Morris made for himself in 1988, we get the lately retired firm veteran Lauren Grant, a marvel of unaffected readability. However she’s filmed in low decision in a number of places, and the enhancing, by Mr. Fowler, is haphazard.
“Why is Mr. Fowler the video editor?” one viewer requested. “As a result of it will be a flip ebook if I used to be doing it,” Mr. Morris answered. A homespun high quality has at all times been a part of the Morris allure, and I’m certain cash is tight today. But when the corporate goes to proceed making movies, investing in an expert editor and a few higher tools could be worthwhile. An efficient business requires some polish.
For the 2 wholly new items, Mr. Morris traded his common music-first methodology for a mode widespread with different choreographers: giving his dancers motion prompts, then collaging what they provide you with and including music later.
In “Allegro Molto,” the insane density and pace of a Conlon Nancarrow player-piano recording is matched with an assault of pictures: dancers collapsing, falling in spirals. The 2-minute burst is one thing of a visit, however Mr. Morris’s personal droll remark is simply: “Most dances are too lengthy; this could’t be accused of that.”
“Promenade Sentimentale” is ready to Debussy’s overplayed “Clair de Lune.” (Mr. Fowler selected the music. The by no means dissembling Mr. Morris inform us that his first response was “No method.”) We see the sky, the seashore, a lake, a pool and, in a tiny ripple of wit, the Gowanus Canal. In particular person frames, the dancers curl, rise, spin and fall backward into water.
The mix of the acquainted music and the repetition of straightforward actions is enjoyable. It’s a small pleasure, however as Mr. Morris says, these video dances will not be what his firm usually does, and occasions later within the anniversary season, together with livestream performances subsequent yr, would possibly get nearer to the previous Morris magic. For now, the primary attraction of those video dances is sentimental.
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