Kevin Berry, The Stage
Mark Morris and his dancers are in the UK for a five-week tour. Regional audiences are shown a programme of established work, London audiences will see two pieces new to the UK.
Bach’s Italian Concerto is an ideal opener and a useful introduction to the Morris company’s relationship with live music. Gently pulsating dancing with serene, smooth movements contains nothing too extravagant, but the sway and snap of the choreography enthrals. It looks deceptively simple.
Sarah Frater, Evening Standard
Before ballet got pointy and athletic, it must have looked something like Mark Morris’s V.
The short piece set to Schumann’s Quintet in E flat major has ballet’s chevrons and patterning, as well as its speed and synchronicities, but it also has an ease and expressiveness that have been squeezed by the modern mania for high extensions and extreme turn-out.
The US choreographer conjures a hush-lush mix of rounded gestures and low-key leaps combined with gossamer gallantries and sly visual jokes.
Ismene Brown, The Arts Desk (online)
I try to remember when I first saw Mark Morris’s dance company and what I thought of them. Fairly weird, I recall – like chubby church-goers, with their big bottoms, fleshy arms and homespun cheeriness, not remotely part of the sharp-boned, athletically wired contemporary dance that was all around. And they weren’t balletic either, despite their little village hall arabesques and occasional flying jetés. But by gum what they did was musical, and that smacked you straightaway.
The dance world is even leaner and more chicken-jointed now, and musical understanding has virtually dropped out of general existence. (Has contemporary dance and its audience ever been as unmusical as it is now?) I admit I arrived at Sadler’s Wells pretty downbeat, having been put through M25 hell and thus missed entry to his latest new work, Empire Garden. But the fact that I was so angry about missing Morris’s latest is a mark of the eager anticipation this unique American choreographer generates – wag, scatological cherub, lyric tragedian, music devotee.
Judith Mackrell, The Guardian
One obvious reason for making dance the old-fashioned way – using music as the starting point for the movement – is that the variety of inspiration open to a choreographer is as wide as the scores available to them. If Mark Morris’s mesmerising new Empire Garden is unlike any work he has made before, it is largely due to his voyage into the weird and witty landscape of Charles Ives.
Debra Craine, The Times
When Mark Morris first came to the Dance Umbrella festival in the early 1980s, no one could have imagined what a towering talent he would become. But seeing his company now, as the starring attraction of this year’s festival, is to be reminded of how smart, uplifting and exquisite his dances are. When you have lost your faith in the power of pure dance to touch the heart and feed the head, this is where you come to have faith restored.
Clement Crisp, Financial Times
Mark Morris and music are inseparable and, rather like Siamese twins, joined at the hip. Morris hears music, is saturated with it, and what results is dance that has a symbiotic life with its score. That life is sometimes difficult, cussed, but Morris, as well as being a conduit through which the notes turn to dance, is also a witty creator who casts a sometimes sideways look at a composition, sees its merits and faults, and reveals both in his choreography.
Luke Jennings, The Observer
Watching the men of the Mark Morris Dance Group in V, I’m reminded of Fotherington-Thomas in Geoffrey Willans’s Down With Skool. According to Molesworth, the book’s spelling-challenged narrator, Fotherington-Thomas is “uterly wet and a sissy” and is given to saying: “Hullo Clouds, Hullo Sky” and “skipping like a girlie”.
There’s a lot of skipping like a girlie in V, which Morris created in 2001. The men also execute bunny hops, pony gallops and startled, little, Bambi-like springs. Some of them wear sage-green vests and trousers; others are bare-legged in tight, turquoise underpants with matching floaty blouses – possibly the most machismo-sapping outfits ever to hit the dance stage.
Jenny Gilbert, The Independent
For those convinced that contemporary dance is a mystery designed to keep them out, the work of the American Mark Morris offers a riposte. “I make it up; you watch it”, is the beginning and end of his philosophy, though he might have added ” … and listen, too”: in a world where good, live music seems to matter less and less, his dance shows are also a very smart concert ticket.
Across the two programmes Morris brought to London as part of a UK tour, we got scorching accounts of a bracing, the rarely heard Charles Ives Trio, a Beethoven cello sonata, Schumann’s glorious Quintet for piano and strings, a clutch of Schubert songs, Gershwin’s piano preludes, and Lou Harrison’s rousing, raving Grand Duo, a sort of West Coast, late-20th-century Rite of Spring for violin and single piano, though it sounded like six. What’s more, the quality is tip-top.