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Mozart DancesMark Morris


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#1 drb

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Posted 18 August 2006 - 08:07 PM

Mostly Mozart Festival, Friday August 18

The second of three performances of Mark Morris's new three act ballet to the music of Mozart brought the Jam-packed New York State Theater's audience to its feet tonight.

Act I Eleven Piano Concerto K.413 (Emanuel Ax)

Allegro. Seven men, black pants just below the knees, and seven women, sheer black dresses, formed a line at the back of the stage, facing a simple abstract background of three black blobs, on white. The men came forward and danced a bit, then left. Lauren Grant, in a basic black dress, soon joined the women as the movement's solo dancer. Dancers skimmed over the surface of the music, highlighting it without adding more than a (very attractive) visual dimension to what had been composed.

Larghetto. Julie Worden entered, one hand on each breast. Her six sisters eventually joined her, but she remained still for some time. The steps did not copy the music but seemed, as in the spirit of Balanchine, to reflect Morris's vision of another, holy level to the music. Being Mozart, there obviously was one, but so wonderful to be able to see it. The women seemed concerned for her, but more involved in some spiritual, perhaps Druidic, activity. Grant entered, perhaps a Priestess, to bring order and resolution. Whatever, this is what almost no contemporary ballet delivers: Choreographer in true dialogue with composer. It would have been the high point of the evening, except for something that came a little later.

Tempo di Menuetto. The finale gave the operatic side of Morris, as befitted the music.

Act II Double. Sonata for Two Pianos K.448 (Emanuel Ax and Yoko Nozaki Ax)

Allegro con spirito. Joe Bowie entered in black pants and open black cape (with blue trim), a very avian creature, with strutting walk, very bird-like discrete (as opposed to continuous) head movement. Epaulement was much in evidence, though the men's arms were not flowing or swan-like. Men entered in black pants and open blue shirts, evincing many of the avian characteristics of Bowie. In this, as in what followed, Morris's dancers were not copying the music but were in full dialogue with it, as if Morris were supplying an orchestra to make this a concerto. Sounds like what a famous ballet guy used to do...

Andante. Six men entered, forming various patterns, simple and intricate. They eventually became a circle of friends, holding hands to form a circle then breaking to form a hand-connected curved line, with one end pair forming a bridge for the others (and eventually them) to chain under, reforming the circle, then reversing the process, or playing other games while holding the circle form. A seventh entered, but while not an outcast, often contained within a circle of six, it seemed they couldn't find a way of being a circle of seven. Bowie would enter at times to put things in order. Eventually they figured how to make a circle from seven, but as they chained through it one man would exit each time... Suddenly women in gowns entered, one for each man. Some of the circle themes were repeated, but now with couples (thus two couples formed the bridge). There was much besides circles in this movement, but on first view circle-play stood out. Morris, in the LA Times interview posted on Links, singled this movement out. No wonder! Change the men to women en pointe and one might have thought a Balanchine masterpiece had been unearthed. A very great piece of choreography.

Allegro molto. Back to the avian men, strutting their stuff to Mozart's joyful finale.

Act III Twenty-seven Piano Concerto K.595 (Emanuel Ax)

After the overwhelming artistry of the previous two central movements Morris brought the program to a close with Mozart's joyous last concerto. The opening Allegro gave many (all?) 16 dancers, dressed in white, ample opportunity for solo display. The central Larghetto began with a lone soloist, John Heginbotham (I think), quickly joined by the evening's first three principal soloists, Lauren Grant, Julie Worden, Joe Bowie. But this was to be a movement for lyric male-female couples. For the Allegro, one might have expected Morris to continue the solos, couples sequence to trios (especially given his affinity for same shown in Act I of Sylvia), but this finale was to be a happy romp for boy-girl couples. There was almost one triple: A young man entered through a crowd of dancers to leap joyously onto a man standing center stage. But he then shooed everyone off stage till there was one left, a woman who wouldn't leave. For him, she was the one, and they happily formed a couple.

Louis Langree conducted the Mostly Mozart Orchestra. To my ear, he remains the best I've heard with this orchestra since Mostly Mozart began.

#2 bart

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Posted 19 August 2006 - 05:56 AM

Now, this sounds wonderful! :) Thanks, drb, for the report!

Is this a return to the L'Allegro ... (etc.) style?

Any plans for touring?

Was anyone else there?

#3 drb

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Posted 19 August 2006 - 07:41 AM

Is this a return to the L'Allegro ... (etc.) style. Any plans for touring? Was anyone else there?

I am sure it will be seen again in some future Mostly Mozart Festival, as Mr. Rockwell's review was immensely favorable, and there will be a lot of return business (I'm going back tonight). It is already scheduled to travel, according to the Times dance reviewer-in-chief. It would seem last night's audience was the more enthusiastic one.

JOHN ROCKWELL:

The response was friendly but muted on Thursday night ...I can only assume that that was because people need to see this work again to appreciate fully its enormous riches... , I feel safe in pronouncing it a masterpiece, ... and one of Mr. Morris’s grandest achievements.


Seriously, Mr. Rockwell was the right person to review this because of his musical qualifications: who else could have captured so much about why Morris succeeded in so few words:

Is the “dances” in his title a noun or a verb?



One could say that, at the best times in this ballet, Mr. Morris is dancing with Mr. Mozart, in somewhat the way that Mozartiana is Balanchine dancing with Tchaikovsky (through Farrell's body).

L'Allegro:

The obvious comparison is with Mr. Morris’s greatest work thus far, his setting of Handel’s “Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato” from 1988. The big difference, ... lies in the Mozart’s lack of a narrative text. ...
The magic of “Mozart Dances” is that Mr. Morris now trusts textless music on the grandest of scales....
Here he’s made something as serious and profound as dance gets....
“Mozart Dances,” ...can be seen in Vienna and London...



Leaving the theater, I did hear one person complain that "I missed hearing the music because I was watching the dancing."

Based on Mr. Rockwell's review I may have misidentified the first soloist in Act III (I guessed Heginbotham, he suggests Vinson, but we did see different performances).

#4 Klavier

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Posted 19 August 2006 - 08:03 AM

Was anyone else there?


I don't have the experience in going to dance programs and critiquing them that most of you have here, but for what it's worth, I was there, and I found my engagement with the dance and dancers growing as the evening progressed.

Of the Mozart piano concertos, K. 413 and 595 are actually not among my most favorites, especially the former. And since I often enjoy dancing more when I enjoy the music being danced to, the first ballet seemed just "okay" to me. In the first movement I found the device of using Lauren Grant to represent the piano soloist a bit mechanical; every time Emanuel Ax played a passage there she'd be - until the cadenza, where the womens' ensemble took over and the relation between music and dance seemed more flexible and inventive. The second movement was very touching, but on the whole I did feel lukewarm about this opening third of the program. And Emanuel Ax, while always a conscientious and capable pianist, has never struck me as a particularly imaginative one; yesterday evening did not change that impression.

In the 2-piano sonata, Mozart's only work for that combination and a very great piece of music in my opinion, the opening baffled me in part as I couldn't see the significance for dressing Joe Bowie in black shorts and black overcoat in contrast to the costumes for the rest of the men. But the second movement, starting with six men holding hands, dancing in a circle, with dancers snaking in and out, was mesmerizing and turned the tide for me, completely winning me over. Morris chose to use the exposition repeat, and like many a pianist, decided not to make it a literal repeat but to vary it with the addition of a seventh dancer (I could be wrong, but I think this was Noah Vinson). The movement only gained in complexity from that point, without departing from the basic circle motif. This is the point in the evening where I switched from feeling "I'm listening to Mozart, with some people moving around on stage," to "this is truly a symbiosis between music and dance in which the choreographer is illuminating the music in unexpected visual ways." It's the sort of feeling I got last year when seeing what Jerome Robbins found in Bach's Goldberg Variations, and especially the last one, the Quodlibet, where two dozen dancers fill the stage in all kinds of complicated formations. As for Morris's K 448, the finale was inventive too, but the slow movement was the high point, and probably the high point of the evening.

And then K. 595 came along, undoubtedly a very great concerto - though as I say not the one I'm most likely to turn to when wanting to hear one of the later Mozart concertos. Here the costuming motif changed completely; everyone was clothed in beautiful white, semi-sheer things that gave some visual relief from the darker shades of the first two parts. The choreography in this part struck me as uniformly terrific. Rather than represent one dancer as the soloist and the rest as the ensemble, Morris used everyone in the company as a soloist, giving each a turn on stage and often switching partners. It's hard to remember all of it especially as I don't have the best visual memory, but among the high points were how in the development section of the first movement, where Mozart is passing the dotted-note motif back and forth between strings and winds, a dancer might pop out from the wings momentarily and pop back in. The finale had the episode, noted by drb, where the one man leapt into the arms of another - a passage that deservedly drew a big laugh, until he turned from this boy-boy embrace to a boy-girl embrace within seconds. But what I liked best about this movement, and indeed most of the concerto, was the egalitarian spirit it conveyed. There were no "principals" with a "corps" behind them purely as supporting mechanisms; instead, every dancer had his or her own thing to say; every one seemed equal with no one more important than any one else.

Harold Hodgkin is a fine artist (there's at least one fine piece by him at MoMA), but I didn't find his backdrops especially compelling or their symbolism clear. But I would definitely recommend this program to any one who can get tickets for tonight's performance. For what it's worth, Rockwell in the Times also gave it a rave.

#5 drb

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Posted 19 August 2006 - 08:27 AM

Thank you Klavier, especially for the parallel with the Robbins/Bach Quodlibet. Morris/Mozart's central Andante was pretty close to sublime, wasn't it? Your musical knowledge (as Rockwell's) is especially valuable in illuminating, and enriching appreciation of, this extremely musical ballet.

#6 bart

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Posted 19 August 2006 - 08:37 AM

I don't have the experience in going to dance programs and critiquing them that most of you have here, but for what it's worth, I was there, and I found my engagement with the dance and dancers growing as the evening progressed.

A marvellous review. I hope you'll share many more with us. Thanks!

[...]what I liked best about this movement, and indeed most of the concerto, was the egalitarian spirit it conveyed. There were no "principals" with a "corps" behind them purely as supporting mechanisms; instead, every dancer had his or her own thing to say; every one seemed equal with no one more important than any one else.

To me, this is one of the best qualities of Morris and some of my other favorite contemporary choreographers. The flow to and from the wings of all sorts of dancers, each of whom might do something incredible or simply exit on the other side of the stage, creates an anticipation and even suspence that is quite different from most classical choreography, where the entry of the principal invariably leads to some kind of star turn. The Robbins of Dances at a Gathering and In the Night has this quality, too. It's one of the things I like best about his work.

#7 Juliet

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Posted 19 August 2006 - 07:45 PM

"See the music...hear the dancing..."
Tonight we did.

Not since Balanchine have I seen such a beautiful marriage....
Do not miss this, when next it's offered. There are layers and layers....wit, delicacy,
quotations and delightful invention.......you can't go wrong with Mozart, and it was a great evening.

Sorry not to be more articulate, I'm still in that post-performace overstimulation....

#8 drb

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Posted 19 August 2006 - 07:48 PM

Saturday, August 19

Happiness is seeing a great ballet again. The parts that follow the transcendent ones may be blunted by the afterglow, and memory clouded from genius overload.

Heginbotham or Vinson? Yes, both! Noah Vinson is the seventh man soloist in Double's Circle Games. Just before the opening movement of Twenty-seven concludes, a quartet of John Heginbotham and the first three soloists is formed, then Mr. Heginbotham is left alone to begin the second movement, quickly joined by the rest of the quartet. Why would Mr. Morris not use all four earlier soloists for this central group of four in the final ballet? Because he had something special reserved for Mr. Vinson in Twenty-seven.

I was able to enjoy Twenty-seven much more tonight, free of the initial shock of Double and with the help of Klavier's report. While the Andante seems primarily duets, the quartets that appear aren't simply double duets, but frequently have their own four-person dynamics. I appreciated the lyric beauty of this movement even more than last night. The finale, where I'd expected trios, twice had sequences in which a pair rushed toward a lone dancer and lifted him, momentary triples.. Then when Double's odd man in, Noah Vinson, rushed through the crowd to leap into Charlton Boyd's arms, he again, as before found a way to become part of the group by quickly pairing off with Julie Worden. The theme of a lone dancer becoming part of a group, even if momentarily as those singles lifted by doubles, permeates the ballet. There are a number of allusions to ballet in this movement. The passage in Giselle Act II, where the ballerina skips on one pointe as Albrecht carries her across the stage, giving the illusion that she's keeping him alive by bearing his weight, is one example.

Eleven, the women's dance, has interesting structural properties. While it begins with straight lines, as soon as the group of seven women begin dancing they form an (inverted) S-curve (a nod to classicism?). They really hold this form till their leader, Lauren Grant, collapses. They experience disorder, even to the desperate extreme of forming a straight line. Only when they regather into their S is she able to rise. After the beautiful Larghetto, another form dominates Tempo di menuetto. One might imagine a sequence of planes parallel to the proscenium. This dance was full of dancers entering on one side, dancing across the stage to exit on the other. But each dancer was confined to her plane. Oddly, this seemed to create a spacial depth to the movement.

Double, is still fabulous. The audience erupted at its conclusion. The glorious Andante with its circle games... When Vinson is finally left alone by the circle of six, Mr. Bowie enters and a PdD begins. But it is not an analog to a ballet PdD. Rather it is a student/teacher (dancing master) learning experience. Here Joe Bowie's costume helps clarify the relationship. After Mr. Vinson is taught by Mr. Bowie (Mark Morris?) the women join in and he becomes a member of Joe Bowie's group (Mark Morris's Company?), and the eight pairs easily join together for some circles.

Tonight Mark Morris had a surprise for us in the bows. He wore pants, rather than Friday night's skirt! And he had a lot of fun aping some of the Joe Bowie choreography. Is there any way to bring this masterpiece back before some Mostly Mozart Festival in the distant future???

#9 rg

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Posted 20 August 2006 - 06:06 AM

MOZART DANCES is so far slated for:
Vienna
London
Berkeley
Chicago
and one TBA
i don't know if the last refers to possible NYC performances or not.
i don't now have the specific dates for the bill's performances in the venues confirmed above.

#10 Jane Simpson

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Posted 20 August 2006 - 06:56 AM

The London dates are July 4 - 7 next year, at the Barbican Theatre. Sounds like a 'must be there'!

#11 Helene

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Posted 20 August 2006 - 07:17 AM

MOZART DANCES is so far slated for:...
Berkeley

According to the Cal Performances website, the only listing for Mark Morris is the 30 September-7 October King Arthur, and there's no listing for MMDG or Mozart Dances among the five programs added to the 2006-7 calendar.

I wonder when this will be added to the calendar.

#12 bart

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Posted 20 August 2006 - 08:30 AM

[ ... ]I found my engagement with the dance and dancers growing as the evening progressed.

Happiness is seeing a great ballet again. The parts that follow the transcendent ones may be blunted by the afterglow, and memory clouded from genius overload.
[ ... ]
I was able to enjoy Twenty-seven much more tonight, free of the initial shock of Double and with the help of Klavier's report.

Imagine ! ... a work of art that actually grows on you as you watch it unfold, that overcomes your initial doubt or disorientation, that encourages and inspires you to learn from what you are experiencing, and that makes you anxious to return. Something major is happening here, indeed. :P And it ain't just entertainment.

#13 drb

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Posted 20 August 2006 - 09:56 AM

While waiting for news as to when we may again get to see Mozart Dances, tickets to Morris's Orfeo ed Euridice are now on sale at the Met Opera and online from their website. Best prices: May 9, 2007. Since performances are all included in opera subscription series, tickets are scarce. In a recent interview on Links Morris promises lots of dancing. Gluck (Balanchine's "Chaconne") and Morris should be a marriage made in Heaven.
Wednesday, May 2, 2007
8:00 pm
Levine; Milne, Murphy, Daniels
Saturday, May 5, 2007
1:30 pm
Levine; Milne, Murphy, Daniels
Wednesday, May 9, 2007
7:30 pm
Levine; Milne, Murphy, Daniels
Saturday, May 12, 2007
1:30 pm
Levine; Milne, Murphy, Daniels

#14 drb

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Posted 20 August 2006 - 01:53 PM

From Playbill, here are photos. The three large ones are presented in inverse order:
http://www.playbilla...ticle/5069.html

#15 dufay

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Posted 20 August 2006 - 02:06 PM

I agree with Klavier in that I found the soloist in the first concerto a bit too mechanical in the rather strict adherence to the solo piano. I was wondering why all the men came out at the very beginning, never to be heard from again for the first concerto. My husband, a pianist, was planning to close his eyes during these dances, but instead found himself wondering at the incredible musicality of Morris- particularly true in the Sonata.


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