Friday, February 4, 2011

Mark Morris Dance Group at Mason

Mark Morris Dance Group's newest work, “Petrichor,”
a name that refers to the scent of rain on dry earth,
is as physical as it is light.
(Photo Tracy A. Woodward, Washington Post)
I asked my good acquaintance at the George Mason University, the one with whom we went to the Garth Fagan Dance performance last April, for the tickets to the Mark Morris Dance Group. He got the tickets for the Friday performance. Imagine my surprise when I saw none other than Mark Morris himself with his coterie making their way to take the seats in a row right in front of ours. The program featured two new pieces (2008 and 2010) before the intermission, and two older pieces (1999 and 1990) after.

I have to agree with the critic:
Maybe it's the anniversary—a big one, 30 years—that lent the Mark Morris Dance Group a surprising and almost sentimental sweetness. For in its performances this past weekend at George Mason University, as part of a celebratory tour marking the survival milestone, one quality emerged over and over: charm.
Morris has created his share of drier, cooler and cerebral works, but on view Friday were four beautifully juicy ones. "Petrichor," his newest, formed the dazzling centerpiece. In creating it, Morris turned to the women of his company. Several of his veteran male dancers had retired, and their replacements needed time to come up to speed on the repertoire. Born of necessity, Morris's first all-female work carries the fresh tang of inspiration.
Kaufman, S., In Mark Morris Dance Group's anniversary tour, girlpower enchants with grace, Washington Post, February 7, 2011.

I was surprised to learn that Mark Morris Dance Group has a strong connection with suburban Washington:
Today, among the troupe's 18 dancers, four are local. […] That's a sizable chunk of suburban Washington in Morris's company, which tours internationally and is one of the busiest in the country. Dance positions of any sort—ballet, modern or other forms—are exceedingly hard to come by: The service organization Dance/USA reports that in 2009, there were 4,500 dancers in performing-arts companies.
(In troupes like Morris's, with budgets of $3 million and up, Dance/USA counts just 1,329 dancers. Those in the top modern-dance companies can make about $35,000 a year.)
This area may be reputed for the overblown egos of its political elite, but its creative capita—at least in dance—is of a quieter sort. Workaholics rule the studios. And more than that, if we can go by the success that these dancers have had with Morris, those who develop an ego-less air stand out, paradoxically, to choreographers looking for versatile performers that they can groom to their liking.
Kaufman, S., Local dancers are winning plum jobs with the famed Mark Morris Dance Group, Washington Post, January 28, 2011.

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