The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Feb 27, 2013

DANCECleveland brings ever popular Mark Morris Dance Group

Posted by rdurbin

Mark Morris is coming to the area and DANCECleveland, a Knight Arts grantee, is bringing him in. The Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Mark Morris Dance Group will perform at the Palace Theatre in Playhouse Square on March 2.

There are so many cool things about MMDG, but maybe the top one is that this renowned choreographer makes it an artistic and entertaining point to perform to live music. His group, the MMDG Music Ensemble, has an amazing streak of offering nearly 800 performances, according to organizers of the event. For DANCECleveland, there will be a quartet of pretty spectacular musicians (pianist Colin Fowler, tenor Zach Finkelstein, cellist Andrew Janss, and violinist Cyrus Beroukhim). That’s pretty awesome and a growing rarity when it comes to dance performances.

As choreographer, Mark Morris is also quite rightly noted for his musicality in matching and complementing dance movement to music. His dancers are described as artistically powerful. Morris has an incredible dance vocabulary and sense of the theatrical and dramatic in his works. And one might add if he has seen this company several times over the past 33 years, Mark Morris’s dances can be and usually are witty and sometimes downright humorous.

The fun in Morris choreography can be seen in the first of three acclaimed dances (which span in time from 1982 to as recent as a year ago) that will be done for our area audience — “Canonic ¾ Studies.” This piece, which will be danced to short piano pieces in (you guessed it) three-quarter time by various composers, begins with a trio of dancers, two of whom just keep going in circles around a third, who has to figure out which way they are coming so that he can give them the perky little lift he is supposed to do. The music adds to the funny frivolity that sets the tone for the rest of the work.

"Canonic 3/4 Studies," Mark Morris Dance Group. Photo by Mark Royce

Second on the menu of MMDG delicacies will be his “Festival Dance” from 2011, a piece designed for 12 dancers dressed in either mid-calf skirts and tops or slacks and shirt. This work plays to the music by Johann Nepomuk Hummel (a protégé of Mozart and friend of Schubert). The work, “Piano Trio No. 5 in E Major,” runs from light to lively (perfect for MMDG) and eventually ends with a polka, a section that Morris choreographs with a line dance that critics say make the audience want to leave their seats and join the dancers. Here's betting that’s true.

Domingo Estrada and Michelle Yard in "Festival Dance," Mark Morris Dance Group. Photo by Stephanie Berger Domingo Estrada and Michelle Yard in "Festival Dance," Mark Morris Dance Group. Photo by Stephanie Berger

The last piece for the evening will be Morris’s “Socrates” (2010), a work for 15 dancers set to Erik Satie’s “Socrate,” which has been described as a dramatic symphony in three parts on the “Dialogues” of Socrates. For the area performance, MMDG will use Satie’s alternate tenor and piano form for his work.

"Socrates," Mark Morris Dance Group. Photo by Gene Schiavone "Socrates," Mark Morris Dance Group. Photo by Gene Schiavone

Mark Morris Dance Group will perform at 8 p.m. on March 2 for DANCECleveland at Cleveland Playhouse Square, 1501 Euclid Ave., Akron; 216-241-6000; Tickets are $20-$65.

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