The Mark Morris Dance Group performed their 2006 work “Mozart Dances” in the Bass Concert Hall of the University of Texas’ Performing Arts Center, September 26 and 27, 2013. The performances followed a week of residency at UT sponsored by the Department of Drama and Dance, featuring workshops and masterclasses taught by Mr. Morris.
Mark Morris is a front rank American choreographer who continues to create monuments of contemporary dance and receive high accolades for his creativity and work. “Mozart Dances” is exemplary of his work and career, comprising a dance in three sections set to three piano concerti by Mozart. Saying Morris’s dances have musicality is an understatement; in rehearsals, Morris directs holding in his hands scores of the music.
When watching the performance, one sees clearly that the dancers become the music rather than merely dancing to music. This dominant quality was aided and abetted by live performance of the music, featuring Anton Nel on the piano. And this extreme musicality is the key to interpreting Morris’s dances and looking for meaning in them. For example, in the first section, the dancer dancing the piano part gave vibrant, bravura solos as would be expected in a Mozart piano concerto. Then later in the same section the same dancer made an entrance walking, not dancing. She walked among other dancing groups, looking hither and yon. Why? Then it became apparent that the piano was silent in this part of the concerto. The dancer was a note, looking for her instrument to play her! Piano came back in, and all was joy.
This playful inventiveness ran all through the evening length work. Morris constantly invented movement patterns, then broke them surprisingly, and formed counter-patterns, just as in classical music. He found new shapes formed from dancers standing in a circle, and on and on. This seems astounding to many who find modern dance a la Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham gradually becoming anachronistic, its days of originality long behind it. As a man in his fifties, Morris continues to show surprising freshness in his explorations of the modern dance form, at a time when he could be resting on a veritable couch of career laurels. In a pre-show lecture, UT professor and former Mark Morris dancer Holly Williams said that Morris has a very deep well of creativity. “Mozart Dances” is the confirmation of that statement.