Kicking off Fairfield University's Arts & Minds' series at the Quick Center for the Arts, the renowned Mark Morris Dance Group performed before an enthusiastic audience Saturday night.
A cadre of talented dancers performed three pieces--"All Fours" with music by Bela Bartok - String Quartet No. 4; "Ten Suggestions," music by Alexander Tcherepnin-Bagatelles, Op. 5, and "Festival Dance," music by Johann Nepomuk Hummel-Piano Trio No. 5 in E Major, Op. 83--for season ticket holders, students and dance aficionados. Dispelling the myth of the long and lean willowy ballerina--with bleeding toes and anorexic minds and bodies--the diversity of the artists onstage --and their obvious strength and overall health--enhanced their demonstrated creativity.
In a post-performance discussion, Morris explained he instructs the company dancers five to six days a week in ballet classes. He pointed out that he doesn't ask the dancers to do anything to their bodies that would lead to injury. "This is why my dancers have longer careers than many," he stated. From the morning until the early evening, around 5:30 to 6 pm, the Mark Morris Dance Group work together in rehearsal, fine tuning every move, creating new choreography, going over and over works from the past that will be presented in the future.
Those who stayed after Saturday's performance were as delighted with the man, Mark Morris, himself as they were with his dancers. A charming and oft irreverent genius-type, Mark Morris responded with bawdy quips to many of the questions posed. He was asked at the start about his 'inspiration' for “Ten Suggestions," where soloist Amber Star Merkins uses a variety of props strewn seeminglyhaphazardly onstage—a chair, a safari hat, a hula hoop, to name afew—to dance and tumble and strut and shimmy her way around the stage. Morris scoffed at the suggested "inspiration" and pointed out he rarely uses that term to describe the action of making a dance. He's "inspired" by a new baby, a beautiful sunset, an orgasm...he said.
“What I did is to do the dance," Morris quipped.
It's the result of deliberate actions that take place when his skilled company members come together regularly. And, Morris was quick to give credit where credit is due. He praised his dancers for their talent, skill, commitment. Also, he called them "interesting." One gets the feeling that this is as important in the art of creating the iconic Mark Morris choreography as is the dance technique.
Morris said, “I like music. When I listen to music, I don't see a dance in my head. I decide what I want the dance to be. I work it out. I try things out with dancers in the room with me." One cannot write about the Mark Morris Dance Group without mentioning the exquisitely performed live music that is part of the performance. When asked why he uses live musicians, Morris says you wouldn't go to the opera unless there was a live orchestra. In the same way, his performances are about both the dance and the music. Admitting it's more money, more rehearsal time, more inconvenience to use live music in performance, Morris also stated, "But, it's also more. In a good way."
I enjoyed listening to the artist behind the art. I also appreciated the talent onstage. Kudos to the dancers for their stamina and skill, which were equally impressive.