Mark of genius

MARK MORRIS DANCE GROUP, Snape Maltings, November 20 and 21

Mark of genius

Mark Morris Dance Group, Snape Maltings, November 20 and 21

Mark Morris Dance Group's appearance at Snape marked the end of a tour that has taken this hugely popular company, which made its London debut 25 years ago, to every corner of the UK, including Plymouth, Edinburgh and Cardiff - so kudos to Dance East for their role, as associate promoters, in securing a visit to East Anglia.

Morris is a magician - drawing on his extraordinary sensitivity to melody and rhythm, he really does make music come to life. With his choreography, the dancing (and he has a terrific 18-strong all-American company of dancers at his disposal) turns the enjoyment of the music into a multi-sensual experience.

This wouldn't work half so well without live music, and the company is lucky to have musicians of such distinction as the Julliard-trained pianist Colin Fowler and violinist Georgy Valtchev.

The programme began with the witty Italian Concerto, to music by Bach, spot-on precision moves from the five soloists. Then the excellent Bradon McDonald gave us a taste of vaudevillian bravura, with a three part solo to Three Preludes for Piano by Gershwin, a piece danced originally by Morris himself and later by Mikhail Baryshnikov.

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In contrast, the pyjama-clad Bedtime (to Shubert), accompanied by some beautiful singing from a quintet led by mezzo-soprano Emily Steventon, brought some striking images of comfort and repose, and included some unusual lifts - rare in Morris's work.

But the best was saved till last. Grand Duo (music for violin and piano by Lou Harrison) is a real crowd-pleaser. Morris's exultant, seemingly inexhaustible dancers leap, turn and spin in an exhilarating whirlwind of dance. There's a muscular, almost primeval drive to it that's reminiscent of The Rite of Spring except here there is no sacrificial victim, just a joyful, life-affirming unity - a complete harmony of movement and spirit.

All of this was played out against a minimal bare-walled background with little technical wizardry. The simple lighting was subtle and affecting, such as the beautiful image of the dancers' hands reaching upward caught in a shaft of light in the final piece. A thrilling end to an enjoyable evening of contemporary dance.


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