From Bill's Desk
Mark Morris Dance Group
With the MMDG Music Ensemble
There are only a handful of choreographers in our time who have effectively changed the vocabulary of contemporary dance and made it their own, extending its scope as an art form. We have lost both Merce Cunningham and just this past year Paul Taylor, but Twyla Tharp is still very active, as is Mark Morris, who has been a staple of McCarter’s dance program since l987 – over thirty years, which is a lifetime in the dance world. There are exciting newcomers on the horizon, like the New York City Ballet’s Justin Peck, Pam Tanowitz, and Michelle Dorrance, who has brought tap into the dance mainstream (and comes to McCarter next season). But Mark Morris never ceases to amaze and delight, fearless in his subject matter, be it sex, despair, havoc or sheer joy. And in his return to McCarter on May 17th, he will give us two reasons to cheer. First, his program will continue to celebrate his friend the American maverick composer Lou Harrison (1917-2017), the pacifist, instrument maker, explorer of Asian music, and gay pioneer , whom Morris cites as a “decades-long inspiration to me as a choreographer. Morris has made several dances to Harrison’s music, and we will get to see two of them: Pacific, a trio for violin, cello and piano; and one of his acknowledged masterpieces, Grand Duo (violin and piano). Harrison said “Music is a Song and a Dance,” and the always spellbinding Grand Duo is a dark , glowing , exciting, plotless drama which both I and Alastair Macaulay of The New York Times never tire of seeing; in Macaulay’s words, “it invariably awes me” – as it will you.
But that’s not all. Mark’s program gets even more exciting with the McCarter premiere of The Trout, one of his newest works set to Schubert’s familiar “Trout Quintet” in A for Piano and Strings – perhaps the best known (and loved) work in the entire chamber music repertoire, and certainly its composer’s most famous and enduring composition. If ever there was a music collaboration made in heaven, it would be Schubert and Mark Morris. They seem perfectly tuned to each other, and Morris’ choreography often mirrors Schubert’s musical structure. The music itself will, of course, be played live by the MMDG Music Ensemble, as will both the Lou Harrison works noted above. Live music has been a trademark of Morris’ works since he formed his company in 1980, and it remains the only contemporary dance organization to do so – a real rarity in this day and age.