Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 20, 2019

REVIEW: Jacob’s Pillow, Mark Morris Dance Group

Jacob’s Pillow, Becket, MA
through July 21, 2019
by Shera Cohen

A reason for my annual visit to Jacob’s Pillow is to see the Mark Morris Dance Group. Indeed, the troupe has been one of the most popular on the Pillow’s calendar for the past 25 years.

Photo by Christopher Duggan
On an extremely hot evening, the Ted Shawn Theatre was at full capacity seating. It’s nights like these when you get to know your seat neighbor quickly. In fact, the audience often seemed like one in their frequent revelation of the dance pieces. Many in the crowd were young; suspecting that they might be wannabe dancers who grabbed the opportunity to see one of the best and well-renowned dance companies in the world.

Four segments created the program. Picking one word to describe the performances would  be “eclectic”. The dancers were 17 men and women. For the most part there was no uniformity of apparel, hairstyles, sizes, shapes. The dancers were never in assigned “roles” even as male or female. If stories were told, the most obvious would have been “Sport”. It was also the most comic. Some of the dancers looked as if they were country club members, others just beach bums. Using all sorts of sport-props; the most comic being one dancer dragging another on the floor, the full length of the stage.

The other two section of the First Act, “Prelude and Prelude, and “Words,” showed the dancers’ skills in slower movements, creating geometric designs with their bodies; i.e. squares, triangles.

“Grand Duo” followed intermission. A rousing, quick-moving, lengthy piece, permitted the young dancers to sometimes work as a team, some singular, and full ensemble. Again, eclectic body movements from head to toe rarely replicated those of any other dancer on the floor. As a whole, the different pieces of development created one picture with a western theme. The segments of “Grand Duo” strung together were: Prelude, Stampede, A Round, and Polka.

Pre-recorded, electronically developed music usually accompanies dance performances. Kudos to Mark Morris and the Pillow for selecting Colin Fowler on piano and Georgy Valtchev on violin, working together and as soloists. The two men sat on the left side of the stage, unobtrusive to the dancers and the audience. Their talents alone would have made for a special evening. Add the Mark Morris Dance Group, and the performance was just right.