Paul Parish, with preface by Apollinaire: rhythm radio frequency
[ed. note: Here's something Paul wrote in an email about Mark Morris's production of the Purcell opera "King Arthur."
I'd mentioned I was disappointed that musical experimentation never counted as experimental in modern dance. Choreographers could use music as a blanket of sound or a mood adjuster or a metronome, or they could broadly riff off the place this kind of music holds in the culture, but if they got any more nuanced then that, forget it--no "experimental" for them. "Dusty" was more like it.
While such experimental New York theaters as the Kitchen or Dance Theater Workshop have no problem presenting shows where the dancing and the music are both minimal, I'll probably be dead before they take it upon themselves to invite, say, jazz tapper Joseph Wiggan into their midst. (Sure, he's not a modern dancer, but that hasn't seemed to bother anyone before.)
Morris, it seems to me, is constantly experimenting with the relation of the immaterial music to the very material dancers: how close to the spine of the music they'll dance, to what extent they are the music's embodiment or actors in its drama or none of the above, and what it means for them to slip from one role to another.
These are urgent matters--how we are permeated by the impermeable, our consciousness formed by the invisible, etc--and it takes great attention to music, and great music, to make us feel that urgency.
Paul responded with these thoughts about the transaction in a Morris show between the audience and the stage action:]
Rhythm, I think, is what allows a casual viewer to tune in and then once the actual frequency is established -- as in radio frequency -- the choreographer can modulate it. I think that's how Mark Morris gets us to tune into his weird projects -- he just GOES RIGHT THERE, and the next thing you know, you're in there, and the rhythm makes an unlikely prospect -- such as a staged oratorio -- into something that makes the people who were there feel like "we lucky few; we're the only ones who will ever know how fantastic that was....."
[Go to danceviewtimes for Paul's complete review of "King Arthur."]
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