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Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Mark Morris: Mastery at BAM

Mark Morris (kneeling) joined an all-star lineup celebrating the 15th Next Wave in 1997. First row, L-R: Jene Highstein (artist), Kristin Jones (artist), Merce Cunningham (choreographer), Mark Morris (choreographer), Harvey Lichtenstein (BAM President/Executive Producer). Back row: Andrew Ginzel (artist), Susan Marshall (choreographer), Joanne Akalaitis (director), Bill T. Jones (choreographer), Lou Reed (musician), Bob Telson (composer), Ping Chong (artist), Howard Gilman (benefactor), Pina Bausch (choreographer), John Kelly (artist), Joseph V. Melillo (BAM Producing Director). Photo: Joanne Savio.

By Susan Yung

BAM has presented work by Mark Morris since 1984, when his debut program took place in the Lepercq Space and included one of his early milestone works, Gloria. Since then, more than 60 of his dances have graced BAM’s stages, with live music on every program. Pepperland—a tribute to The Beatles’ landmark album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, with a new jazz score by Ethan Iverson—will be at the Howard Gilman Opera House May 8—11. Here’s a look back at some of Morris’ previous choreographic mastery at BAM.

Gloria, 1984, music by Antonio Vivaldi
The dancers flew, ran, and crawled, re-defining what dance could be. Morris actually conducted the show’s 2006 BAM performances.

Nixon in China, 1987, music by John Adams
Morris choreographed this opera with an unlikely subject directed by Peter Sellars; the dances included segments of the Chinese Socialist ballet, The Red Detachment of Women.

Dido and Aeneas, 1990, music by Henry Purcell
Morris played the queen opposite Guillermo Resto; the dancers took the stage, while the musicians performed from the pit. Dido—a role later cast with both men and women—erased gender stereotypes.

L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, 1990, music by George Frideric Handel

A dazzling, sumptuous, largely abstract work with pastoral undertones, framed by Adrianne Lobel’s lucid set designs and James Ingall’s lighting.

The Hard Nut, 1992, music by Tchaikovsky
A mod, yet timeless take on The Nutcracker, with a swingin’ cocktail party and exhilarating snowflake and flower waltzes. This, L’Allegro, and Dido were created in Belgium while the company was in a three-year residence at La Monnaie opera house, which enabled Morris a grandeur of scale and ambition that he might not have had otherwise.

Grand Duo, 1993, music by Lou Harrison
This exuberant tribal celebration accelerates in dynamic from the hypnotic, mysterious opening line dance to the rousing, foot-stomping polka.

Four Saints in Three Acts, 2001, music by Virgil Thomson, set by Maira Kalman
A lushly visual and kinetic rendition of Gertrude Stein’s prose; Kalman’s vividly graphic set design includes a Watteau-esque rope swing.

V, 2002, music by Robert Schumann
A prime example of Morris’ artistry in exuberant form, pattern, syntax, and musicality, unreliant upon narrative.

Socrates, 2010, music by Erik Satie
Praised for being beautiful, sensuous, and elegiac; another major premiere by Morris at BAM.

Words, 2015, music by Felix Mendelssohn
Morris divines the complex rhythms of Mendelssohn’s musical genius, and uses simple, compelling theatrical motifs to distinguish scenes.

Pepperland will be at BAM May 8—11.

Susan Yung is senior editorial manager at BAM.

© 2019, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Inc. All rights reserved.

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