Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

August 24, 2011

Mark Morris

Jacob’s Pillow, Becket, MA
through August 28, 2011
by Emily List

Through his choreography for the 30th anniversary celebration of his company at Jacob's Pillow, Mark Morris proves that he is still what many critics have described as "the bad boy of modern dance."  

Photo By Sharen Bradford
The visceral mischief begins before the dancing does, as the audience is shown projections of two characters--one, a native-American man; the other, a seemingly pre-Raphelite saintly woman with a halo. On closer inspection, the style is more art nouveau, with the woman wearing a jaunty 1930s cap. Indeed, the first piece, "Resurrection," is not a serious dance imbued with Christ-like images, but a hilarious portrayal of a Hollywood murder, set to music by Richard Rodgers. The dancers kick and roll around the couple like synchronized swimmers until the woman lifts herself up to bourree deadpan across the stage to the astonishment of her dance partner.  

"Ten Suggestions," is a solo admirably danced by Amber Star Merkens. Set to the menacing tinkling of Alexander Tcherepnin's "Bagatelles Opus V,” a chair, hoop, hat and ribbons are amply used to help Merkens cross from stage right to left, a feat in which she does not succeed. The piece is very circus-esque, as Merkens balances precariously on the chair, clowns around with her straw hat and plays with her hoop. She uses the hoop not as a hula dancer, but as a partner that is twirled, stepped through.  

For "Dancing Honeymoon," Morris' ensemble is back for another tribute to the 1920s and 30s -- this time through Broadway musical comedy box-stepping and Rockette-like kicklines. The music sounds as if it weren't live, but resonating from a 20s speakeasy.

This critic's favorite is "V". The choreography is more classically balletic and finds the dancers swinging themselves and their partners into suspensions, sometimes arabesquing into the air, and at times, lightly dropping to the ground. For the uninitiated, "V" is not about the number 5, but about playing with space and patterns. The dancers find ways of creating the V, then other formations.

The evening is dramatically charged, from the use of live music to the bold lighting and costumes and especially to the dancers, whose sense of humor and light-heartedness easily transfer to the audience.