“It made you aware of every note of the music.” Thus Dame Marie Rambert explained to me something of the merits of Dalcrozian eurhythmics which she had studied and which enabled her to work with Nijinsky as he prepared The Rite of Spring in 1913. These words are eminently true today in describing Mark Morris choreography: everywhere you see the dance exploring the composer’s inspiration, the creative devices, the attitudes – historic, emotional, social – implicit in the score.
In the second of the two programmes Morris has brought to London, the music is by Samuel Barber (his Excursions for piano), by Henry Cowell (the stunning piano and violin suite) and by Hummel (the adorable fifth piano trio), and each impeccably given by his Music Ensemble. There is also a selection of zany, sort-of-rhymed sort-of-songs by the cunningly eccentric Ivor Cutler. All of these Morris sets grandly dancing, and in so doing reveals artistic manner, compositional forms, emotional resonances which he has heard and which he now enables us hear. The result is unalloyed pleasure in vividly demanding choreography which his dancers – marvels every one – present to us with that frankness of means (no posturing, no faking, no selling) which is part of Morris’s own humanity as a creator.
The Cutler piece, A Wooden Tree, is a hoot, embellished with the world’s most hideous costuming, with the obvious turned on its head as faux-naif text meets faux-naif dance. Excursions reveals the unpredictabilities of the Barber score and its outer concerns with journeys. The emotional mayhem of the duet to Cowell’s suite, which is named for its protagonists, Spencer Ramirez and Jenn Weddell, is almost too frank, too searing, in its disquiet and tensions, but skies clear and joy and human dignity reign in Festival Dance, which is set to the Hummel piano trio. Here is choreography of open-hearted delight, buoyant, springing off the stage, light-giving in manner and in the tremendous dancing of Morris’s artists.
You rejoice at the felicities of step and phrase, and rejoice again at the skills and art that have made them so true. Massive laurels to the dancers. Massive thanks to Mark Morris. The world is a better place.