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Mark Morris, some kind of great

By Leslie Kandell
Friday, August 26, 2011
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Mark Morris Dance Group is back at Jacob's Pillow through Sunday, and because I watched with mouth hung open with admiration at the fluid joy, witty strength and keen musicality of Morris's choreography, I dredged up my review from 1992 -- first time I'd ever written on dance.

To my amazement, I saw that it said much that could be printed today: "...his brand of rough-hewn American classicism.." "raw, folk-influenced dance of shake-it-out force," and a concluding thought: "Maybe Morris bites off more than he can chew. Hope he keeps biting and chewing."

My next Morris piece began: "The ability to identify music strong enough to stand alone, and then enhance it with dance, is Mark Morris's talent as a choreographer."

Well, well. So now that you know everything, it need only be said that the current Pillow program begins with "Resurrection," set to a condensed version of Richard Rodgers' "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue," with dancers again in fitted black-and-white Isaac Mizrahi pajamas. You can imagine it. It is followed by an early solo -- rather, a duo with chair -- set to a Tcherepnin piece. Then comes "Dancing Honeymoon," a jubilant Paul Taylor-like medley of tunes from the 20's and 30's.

Morris has begun recent Berkshires summer seasons working at Tanglewood with music students who -- because he insists on live music -- were on hand at the Pillow to perform the music for the dances. "V," the final dance (pictured), is an important work; its title is the Roman numeral for five, the number of parts in the Schumann Piano Quintet. Those five young musicians played their hearts out, their sound lifting the dancers with vibrant energy.

Morris's youthful style was insolent, as if he were working out an extended adolescence. But he's become a grand musical orb, and when he took a bow with the dancers, I think the applauding audience wanted to bow to him, too.

 
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