What to say about Mark Morris, his dances and his dancers, save that their return this week to Rosebery Avenue is the most welcome, the most stimulating of events? I would add that, in a city where inadequate, score-bruising choreography abounds, we see in Morris’s work the triumph of an art of subtlest creation and sensibilities, movement an organic and radiant development of its music. Strong words? Of course, and necessarily so when activities that have lately occupied this same stage (notably with Hofesh Shechter and Rambert) have tarnished the good name of choreography.
Morris, who has genius, offers us – in this first of two programmes – dances that are the most seemingly natural and felicitous realisations of their score. Design? A bare stage, discreet costuming, good lighting. Music? The refined resources of Morris’s own ensemble – a septet comprising gifted singers and musicians – performing Beethoven’s settings of British folk songs, Weber’s Grand Duo Concertant for clarinet and piano, Satie’s Socrate. The result? An evening of dance penetrating of its music, both beguiling and uncompromising, a vivid image of what the composer created.
The Muir takes Beethoven’s delightful songs, shows us their charm, their world, and in a final heart-tearing sequence, their soul. Crosswalk is a joyous realisation of Weber’s virtuosities and ingenuities of craft for the clarinet, its every least feat of bravura explored by 10 buoyant men and three flame-garbed women, running (and walking) across the stage, springing delightedly over their music, its forms their forms, its happy rhythms theirs. Socrate offers a prodigious visualisation of Satie’s austere masterpiece concerning the philosopher’s final days. This most unemphatic music (idiomatically given by the tenor Zach Finkelstein and the pianist Colin Fowler) is explained, respected, as Morris’s dancers, clad in pale-hued tunics and chitons and kilts move through choreography that probes with every restraint the heart of Satie’s score. I think it a masterpiece and, like so many of Morris’s dances, amazing in power, eloquence, clarity of vision. And lit by a radiant humanity. Choreography unalloyed, life-enhancing. Vast gratitude to Morris and his artists.