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MARCH WITH MARK: MORRIS CELEBRATES 25 YEARS OF DANCING AT BAM

This article originally appeared in the Culture section of Bloomberg News on March 5, 2006.


March 5 (Bloomberg) — Celebrating the 25th anniversary of his company with a three-week season at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Mark Morris suddenly seems to be a grand old man of modern dance. Yet he’s still in touch with his inner bad boy.


The 49-year-old choreographer’s brash, outspoken personality has been toned down by time and experience but not extinguished. His work remains daring.


Who else would do a “Nutcracker” featuring a dysfunctional family? Who else would incorporate masturbation into the dual role he created for himself as the noble Queen Dido and the Sorceress who brings about her ruin?


And his choreography continues to stand out, especially in our present era of mediocre dance-making. His work can rival Balanchine’s in its profound relation to his chosen score. His musical taste is catholic, to put it mildly, ranging from the ancients to the classical Western moderns, through world and populist genres.


With his unconstrained imagination, matters usually hushed by convention and propriety are out in the open: the nature of sexual desire, for instance, or the fragile veneer that civilization lays over primal aggression.


From his formative adolescent experience with a Balkan folk- dance group, Morris discovered that community offers identity and ecstasy. His choreography says this again and again. The solemn chain dance and the fleet running circles of his masterpiece, “L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato,” are not segues but climaxes.


Broad Appeal


The dances appeal to a wide audience because they don’t look highbrow. Effort and awkwardness are allowed to show. Even when movement grows light, delicate and lyrical, it isn’t rarefied or stylized. Instead, it relates to motions familiar from athletics and pedestrian life.


And the dancers, with their varied physiques and their frank self-presentation, also steer the choreography safely away from the arty.


Three programs on BAM’s main stage, the Howard Gilman Opera House, will survey Morris golden oldies that range from the souls struggling in the dark of “Gloria,” created in the early 1980s, to the exultant “V” of 2001, which seems to celebrate New York’s resilience in the face of 9/11 — and, by extension, humankind’s resilience.


Lushest Woman


Most significant among these is a revival of the 1989 “Dido and Aeneas,” a fully danced staging of the Purcell opera. It’s hard to imagine anyone succeeding Morris in the double role of the noble queen doomed by sexual desire and the gleefully obscene Sorceress. Morris, winding down his performing career as he nears the age of 50, has chosen the company’s tallest, lushest woman, Amber Darragh, to do so.


Two recent works, “Candleflowerdance” (to Stravinsky’s “Serenade in A”) and “Cargo” (to Milhaud’s “La Creation du Monde”), will have their local premieres on the third program, which opens March 22.


Three complementary hour-long concerts at the Mark Morris Dance Center, cater-cornered to BAM, will survey solos, duets and trios that Morris created between 1980 and 2001. All the Morris roles but one in these pieces have been transferred to a younger generation of Morris-trained dancers.


Furthering the Brand


Related activities in what the advance publicity is calling “The Month of Mark” are designed to let the audience in on the Morris aesthetic and, no doubt, to further his brand.


They include a film series curated by Morris, evenings of his favorite music (a wildly eclectic range) in the BAMCAFE, photographic exhibitions, panel discussions, and post-performance parties at which one can mingle with the cast.


Morris fans planning to take it all in will find that it’s a full-time job.


© 2006 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

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