We Were There When Oct 5, 2012
"We were there when Mark Morris returned to On the Boards!" is what 300 people will be saying tomorrow, next week, and years down the road.
In a way, it seems a bit superfluous to blog about the show. The Mark Morris Dance Group in 300-seat On the Boards. Mikhail Baryshnikov in a guest appearance. What more do you really need to know?
This performance both completely fulfilled my expectations, and served up constant surprises to me.
To begin with, I expected the dancers to be amazing, and seeing them in such an intimate venue to be a rare treat. I love it when I'm right. And because they were amazing, and the venue allowed such a close-up experience of their dancing, they constantly surprised me. Of course, they could do the most difficult movements with panache; what made me catch my breath however, were the moment of exquisite simplicity that were completely captivating. These are performers of the highest caliber. They are remarkably cohesive as a group, yet manage not to give up their individuality. As movement phrases were repeated, what was sassy from one dancer was innocently playful from another, and a bit threatening from a third. Even as I could tell from the musical and dance structure that I would see dancer 1, 2, and 3 perform the same movement one after another, I never knew what I would end up seeing. I can not say enough good things about the dancers.
Mark Morris' choreography was...his choreography. Love him or hate him--I do both--he indisputably belongs to the Significant Choreographers' Club. Given the impact he has had in the dance field, I feel that it's important to see his work. Pronouncing whether I liked it or not seems almost to miss the point. If you want to know though, I did and I didn't like it. But whether I was feeling frustrated or delighted, over the course of the show he managed to pull me in. Each piece had its own completely different flavor. I got the sense of a choreographer who wasn't afraid to be silly or intense, balletic or quirkily grotesque. I got the sense of a choreographer who wasn't afraid to follow where his whimsy led him--who cares what other people think or the current fashion may be?! I may not always agree with his direction, but I am drawn to the confidence and freedom with which he pursues it. And maybe a little jealous.
And then, the 5' 6" elephant in the room. Baryshnikov. I don't do this often, but OMG! And yes, I was thrilled as expected. But what ended up thrilling me was seeing him belong as one of many amazing performers in the delightfully demented world premiere "A Wooden Tree." Except for his grey hair, he could have been one of the 20-somethings on stage with him. I found it surprisingly touching to see him delighting in being part of the ensemble, getting to play with everybody else, rather than being stuck out alone in another star turn.
The surprise that I am almost ashamed to admit to, were the live musicians. I knew they'd be there, but they weren't included in my "what more do you really need to know?" They should have been. It is an extraordinary privilege to get treated to a chamber music performance of that caliber--and oh yeah, there was a dance performance happening too. The immediacy of the interaction between musicians and dancers keeps both parties fresh and in the moment, and is thrilling and satisfying in the audience. This is what live performance is about. Bravo to Mark Morris for his insistence on the importance of live music for dance.
And bravo to On the Boards for a historic and fabulous evening!