MARK MORRIS DANCE GROUP
March 9, 2012
Suddenly, the action ceased and house lights came up. A disembodied voice announced a pause due to a backstage problem. In a split second, reality smacked into the happy fantasy crowding the stage on the opening night of Mark Morris Dance Group’s (MMDG) three day season at BAM. Up to that point, the company was whizzing along in the whimsical production of Morris' "Four Saints in Three Acts" (choreographed in 2000) with a score by Virgil Thomson (1934) and Libretto by the avant-garde poet Gertrude Stein.
After a few minutes, Mark appeared at the edge of the stage, microphone in hand to announce that Rita Donohue would replace the injured Michelle Yard (St. Teresa). Looking into the pit holding the MMDG Music Ensemble and Trinity Choir, Morris instructed a singer to “take it from the top” of his big solo.
Virgil Thomson's nonsensical, pun-infiltrated opera is performed with a full dose of folksy humor by the thoroughly committed MMDG dancers outfitted in rustic pastoral outfits by Elizabeth Kurtzman. In a seamless switch, St. Ignatius (Samuel Black) and the new St. Teresa continued in their human and spiritual endeavors uniting folks in heavenly ways: “When love and strength are united, the favor of God rewards Man.”
After intermission, a single dancer, back to the audience moves in reverse until facing front and leaps off the stage giving the downbeat for the first note of Ludwig van Beethoven’s rarely heard “Fantasia in C Minor for piano, Chorus and Orchstra.” Mark Morris’ world premier “A Choral Fantasy” launches a crowd of disciplined dancers smartly zipped up in army cadet style sleeveless outfits by Itzak Mizrahi.
The dancers form interconnecting patterns that slice through on diagonals or spiral in and out of circles. Visually, if overhead cameras looked down on the stage, the patterns would display a Busby Berkley kaleidoscopic patterning. A regimental streak shines through straight-legged marches, salutes and rushes across the stage. Although a strong choreographic formula binds the dancers, individuality warms the brisk, brightly patterned proceedings.
EYEON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis