A lover’s quarrel, feet as percussion, Polynesianesque tribal huddles and Ivor Cutler? Mark Morris takes the audience back and forth through his four piece, two act performance at the University of Denver, Newman Center, June Swaner Gates Hall.
The performance opened with The Argument, music by Robert Schumann, Paul Wiancko on cello and Colin Fowler on piano. Having the live musicians in the room added to the suspense and intrigue. With sudden breaks, folds and wobbles, the three male/female couples danced as a group, single and in duos expressing the ins and outs of disagreement. Moments of music progressed with no one on the floor allowing the audience to fill in the gap, play out an old memory or contemplate an apology.
Moving to A Wooden Tree, Ivor Cutler filled the speakers and serenaded the crowd with humorist, satirical jaunts in his Scottish poetry of yore. Disjointed from the first piece and certainly from the third, this illustrated the breadth and range of Morris and his company.
Post intermission, Jenn and Spencer mesmerized. The two ebbed and flowed moving from standing to spending large amounts of time on the floor. Working off of and through one another’s body, their conversation traversed tenderness, intimacy, struggle and constancy.
Grand Duo flooded the stage with the full cast of dancers using their bodies and feet as percussion, forming nautilus flows and alignments evoking Polynesian tribal dances. The minimalist costumes exposed enough of the dancer’s raw form to evoke strength and courage. Lou Harrison’s Grand Duo for Violin and Piano had the dancers in spams and the piano danced like a flame blowing on an island beach. The passion, energy and continuous movement enlivened the audience so much so that upon the end, it rose with a fury of applause.
Three performances in Denver is so few given the immense talent of the Mark Morris Company. With so many senior citizens in the audience, I hope they go home and tell their children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews that video games and texting cannot provide the entertainment, emotional fulfillment and eye merriment of today’s array. Take the time to see a performance. The physical art form is truly amazing and worth every second.
About Mark Morris:
Mark Morris is an American choreographer and director whose contemporary dance work is acclaimed for its craftsmanship, ingenuity, humor, and live musical accompaniments, which have been a feature of every international tour of the company since 1996. Morris is popular among dance aficionados, the music world, and mainstream audiences. The Mark Morris Dance Group was formed in 1980 and gave its first concert that year in New York City. The company’s touring schedule steadily expanded to include cities both in the U.S. and in Europe, and in 1986 it made its first national television program for the PBS series Dance in America. In 1988, MMDG was invited to become the national dance company of Belgium, and spent three years in residence at the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels. The company returned to the United States in 1991 as one of the world’s leading dance companies, performing across the U.S. and at major international festivals.
Mark has collaborated with artists from Mikhail Baryshnikov to Yo Yo Ma to Isaac Mizrahi. He has created works for the San Francisco Ballet, the Paris Opera Ballet, and American Ballet Theater and has stage directed operas for The Metropolitan Opera, English National Opera, and the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.
W. Celeste Davis Stragand: Published author, showcased artist and local Denverite, W. Celeste Davis Stragand is not new to the art world. Her passion for delving into the root of existence and movement will challenge and praise both choreographers and the audience. A graduate of Texas A&M University, Celeste holds two bachelor of arts degrees, one in Chemistry and the other in English. She is also a graduate of Naropa University holding a Masters of Fine Arts in Writing and Poetics from the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. Currently, Celeste is a member of the Downtown Denver Partnership Leadership Program, and she sits on both the American Institute of Architects Denver and Society for Marketing Professional Services Colorado Chapter boards. Her passion and enthusiasm for the kinetic arts will frolic and frenzy through the upcoming season of performances with many hopes for an encore!