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Mark Morris Review

Pretty pretty Mark Morris

Friday, January 30, 2009 at 12:10am
Kennedy Center, Washington DC,

The Mark Morris concert of Mozart Dances was full of pretty movement, pretty dancers with pretty bodies, pretty costumes and pretty sets. And lest you forget for one second, his concerts ALWAYS have pretty music. And it is all very pretty (in case you don’t get the drift). The movement is lush, balletic, and athletic. It sweeps through the space well, the dancers look like they are enjoying themselves and everything is just so, and picture perfect. Did I mention pretty?

Several leading critics consider Morris a genius, so he must surely be one. Morris has reinstated pretty in the modern dance idiom–almost as if to do penance for all the other geniuses who obsessively explored the dark side of human nature through dance. And he has discovered the coin toss approach to choreography. Heads–pretty movement as music visualization; Tails–camp, particularly predictable gender bending gestures. The audience laughs predictably when the men gesture with limp wrists, and there is even a cartoonish lift of sorts between two men–the lead-up couldn’t be missed from a mile–yet the audience dutifully guffaws.

I’ve heard the movement for movement’s sake argument before–Merce Cunningham makes a persuasive one; I’ve heard the musicality of movement argument before–Tudor, Taylor, Balanchine all have used music powerfully; and I’ve definitely heard the argument for camp–most drag shows in town on any weekend night have excellent bits of camp. But the names mentioned above, also have something more–they find a human connection. However, I found Thursday evening’s show utterly lacking in any significant human moment.

Perhaps it is not easy being pretty after all, because everyone is so busy working hard trying to be pretty, and in the process, they forget how to be human. The concert left me hungry for something more than the pastel cotton candy emptiness.

And it made me re-read Rainer’s No Manifesto, which calmed me down considerably. There is space for both in modern dance. I just have to stay awake through the pretty ones.

NO to spectacle no to virtuosity no to transformations and magic and make-believe no to the glamour and transcendence of the star image no to the heroic no to the anti-heroic no to trash imagery no to involvement of performer or spectator no to style no to camp no to seduction of spectator by the wiles of the performer no to eccentricity no to moving or being moved. (263–4)
Feelings are Facts: A life—Yvonne Rainer

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