Mark Morris Dance at Mostly Mozart

Morris Paints Notes in Dance

By: - Aug 27, 2016

Mark Morris Dance Group
Mozart Dances
Mark Morris, choreographer
Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra
Louis Langrée,conductor
Garrick Ohlsson, piano
Inon Barnatan, piano
Howard Hodgkin set design
Martin Pakledinaz costume design
James F. Ingalls lighting design
David H. Koch Theater
Mostly Mozart Festival
Lincoln Center
New York, New York
August 26, 2016

Mark Morris is billed as a musician, and has, in fact, been music director of the Ojai Festival. He is clearly a musicians’ musician and knows as much about music as most professionals. His main gig is choreography. He insists on using live ‘bands,’ in this case, the Mostly Mozart Orchestra.

Mozart Dances was created ten years ago to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth. Mozart’s early Piano Concerto, No. 11 and his last one, No. 27, bracket the composer’s only duo piano Sonata.

In the spirit of the Mostly Mozart orchestra conductor Louis Langrée, Morris charges himself with keeping dance fresh. He will not choreograph to canned music. While the lack of predictability makes for rough edges at moments, they are exciting. Live music also creates a wonderful tension for an audience as the dancers respond. You are not quite sure what to expect. This suits the temperament of the impish choreographer.

Howard Hodgkin has created a set which most often shows three giant brushstrokes bathed in different colors.  Are they the fast, slow, fast of each of the Mozart compositions? The dancers stand silhouetted before the backdrop and then jump forward into the light.

The overall impression in each of the pieces is that Morris has made moving, visual notes. Most obvious are minuets danced to a three/four rhythm, an elegant statement. At phrase conclusions, dancers fall to the floor until a new phrase begins. Graphic expression of a soaring line is captured when two dancers join their palms in an upward expression as the music lifts up.

The panoply of movements Morris designs are seemingly inexhaustible. Even walking becomes a joyous dance. Running of course and the tiny steps suggesting a run of notes before it becomes a glissando.

The admirable Garrick Ohlsson performed the Concertos. He was joined by great young pianist Inon Barnatan for the duo piano piece. Particularly when the piano only could be heard, the shining top notes shimmered in the dancers’ bodies.

The slow movement of the Sonata is clearly Morris’s favorite. If each composition has a fast, slow and fast movement, this slow movement is the center of the evening.  Morris has lavished attention on the notes expressed as his dancers move delicately to the softer and sometimes mournful phrases.

Langrée conducts to make Mozart as fresh as today and the grace notes in the forms of dancers respond in kind. Mozart Dances are a lyrical joy.