The Many Moods of Mark Morris

Three cheers for Mark Morris! That's one cheer for each of the three pieces his company performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music last night, all of which were characteristically thoughtful--and remarkably different.

The evening began with Behemoth, the only piece the musically-driven Morris has ever set in silence. If the downtown choreographers can do it, he seems to say, then I can too! The result is an introverted, slightly sinister work; its ever-shifting formations, propelled by the rhythms of the dancers' footfalls, often evoke some kind of giant industrial machine. In one especially inventive (and haunting) section, several dancers appear to be dragged along by the sweeping leg of a central "leader," only to be thrown to the ground when that leader slams down his foot.

I liked Morris in contrarian, music-free mode, but I have to admit that I was relieved when the second piece, Looky, opened with strains of Kyle Gann's (awesomely whacked-out) piano music. And yet Morris, who generally insists on live music, was messing with us again: When the lights came up, we saw that the sound was coming from a playerless piano--it was canned live music. Looky is good silly fun, a commentary on the way we entertain ourselves. Dancers in black-and-white pajamas mime walking through art galleries and sculpture gardens, going to the ballet, getting drunk at a party. The grand finale is a big vaudevillian ensemble number. "Look at us!" the dancers all but say. "Looky (get it?) here!"

After a brief intermission (during which I spotted hot couple Natalie Portman and Benjamin Millepied in the lobby!) came the highlight of the evening: Socrates, a world premiere set to music by Erik Satie. Socrates is Serious Morris; in my opinion it's on the level of his masterworks Gloria, L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato and Dido and Aeneas. The music's lyrics--excerpts from  three of Plato's Dialogues--describe the arc of the Greek philosopher Socrates' life, ending with an account of his death. (Though the lyrics are sung in French, an English translation is projected above the dancers.) Morris' choreography is essentially abstract, and yet it often mirrors specific phrases in the lyrics. Socrates and his friend Phaedrus discuss a tree by the bank of the river Ilissus under which they plan to lie and rest; we see dancers become trees, standing upright with their arms over their heads, and then watch them lie down. It sounds corny, but it isn't; in fact, it's poetic. Though sophisticated in its style and movement patterns, Socrates has a peaceful, orderly rightness about it--it seems, as Morris' best works often do, simpler than it is.

Catch The Mark Morris Dance Group through Saturday, February 27 at the Howard Gilman Opera House, Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Latest Posts


Photo by Jayme Thornton

How Paloma Garcia-Lee Manifested Her Dream Role, in Steven Spielberg’s "West Side Story"

On a rainy day in November 2018, Paloma Garcia-Lee got a call from her agent that brought her to her knees outside her New York City apartment: She was going to play Graziella in Steven Spielberg's West Side Story.

The call came after a lengthy audition process with Spielberg in the room, and the role, originated by Wilma Curley on Broadway in 1957 and later portrayed by Gina Trikonis in the 1961 film, was her biggest dream. In fact, it's something Garcia-Lee says she manifested from the day plans for the movie were announced in January 2018. "I wrote in my journal: 'I am playing Graziella in Steven Spielberg's West Side Story.'"

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Photo by @mediabyZ

Am I Less Committed to Dance Because I Have Other Passions? (Spoiler Alert: NO!)

Let's face it—dance is HARD, and in order to achieve your goals, you need to be committed to your training. "Still, there's a fine line between being committed and being consumed." Dancers can, and should, have interests outside of the studio.

Not convinced? We talked with dance psychologist Dr. Lucie Clements and two multifaceted dancers, Kristen Harlow (a musical theater dancer pursuing a career in NYC and Kentucky) and Kallie Takahashi (a dancer in her final year at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts), and got the inside scoop on how having hobbies outside of dance can inform your artistry, expand your range and help prevent burnout.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Photo by Jamayla Burse

Catching Up With Christian Burse, Comp Kid Turned Complexions Rising Star

With her nearly limitless facility, well-timed dynamics and incredible control, Christian Burse's future as a dancer was guaranteed to be bright. A student at the renowned Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas, TX, and at Dance Industry Performing Arts Center in Plano, TX, Burse has consistently made waves: She won first runner-up for Teen Outstanding Dancer at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals in 2019, received a grant for summer study at Juilliard from the Texas Young Masters program in 2020, and was named a YoungArts finalist for dance in 2021.

So, it wasn't all that surprising when Burse announced that, at just 17 years old, she would be joining Complexions Contemporary Ballet as an apprentice for the company's 2021–22 season.

Dance Spirit caught up with Burse to hear all about her first season with Complexions ahead of the contemporary ballet company's run at the Joyce Theater in NYC this month.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks

contest
Enter the Cover Model Search