Mark Morris Dance Group
His Majesty’s Theatre
reviewed by Neville Cohn
As I watched Lauren Grant in ensemble with the Mark Morris Dance Company, I recalled, vividly, another, very celebrated American of approximate height.
Older readers may recall Maureen Connolly, the sensational, pint-sized tennis genius who won five grand slams single titles. Her amazing skill and stamina on the courts were such that she was dubbed Little Mo. (Big Mo, at the time, was one of the US Navy’s most formidable battle ships). But Grant, who stands a mere 4 feet 11 inches is only one of a wondrously gifted dance ensemble which, at the weekend, demonstrated their mettle to the music of Mozart.
There’s nothing in the least flashy about the company: no purpose-made, dainty dance shoes or glamorous costumes. With minimal make-up, the company are garbed in austere white, grey or black, set against a white backdrop on which are large daubs of paint. The women are uniformly fine, their techniques finely honed with impressive, fluid ensemble and grace. There is nothing effete about the male dancers, muscular, macho figures, some sporting beards and hairy chests, a number looking as if they could be useful on a rugby field.
The chief joy of the production was the consistently lissome quality of both dance and music, an aesthetic marriage made in arts heaven.
Mark Morris’ choreographies do not indulge in the more extravagant, over-the-top
extensions of the avant garde. They are much more in keeping with the essential simplicity that is the hallmark of Mozart’s ideas – and all the more welcome for that..
Three works were danced to the music of Mozart with Colin Fowler presiding over a much-reduced W.A.Symphony Orchestra in the pit. The opening and closing choreographies were presented to piano concertos – K413 and K 495 – of Mozart, the middle work danced to the Sonata for two pianos in D. The concertos featured as soloist a gratifyingly in-form Amir Farid. His playing here was stylistically impeccable and fluent, a joy to the ear. Clarity, limpid tone and fluency were first rate. The Sonata, in ensemble with Colin Fowler, though, was less than uniformly pleasing. While nearly all the notes were there, it lacked the impressive standard of ensemble so pleasingly apparent between pianist and orchestra in the concertos.
Gales of thoroughly warranted applause greeted choreographer and artistic director Mark Morris as he came on-stage to take a bow.