|Pacific. Photo: Nan Melville
The two 2018 spring programs performed by the Mark Morris Dance Group showed the choreographer's range, in scale from intimate to large. Solos, Duets, and Trios (Program B) was a survey of smaller cast pieces and excerpts that fit naturally within the cozy studio venue. Lou 100: In Honor of the Divine Mr. Harrison (Program A) comprised another solo suite plus some large cast pieces to music by Harrison.
|Little Britten. Photo: Nan Melville
On Program A, Numerator was a New York premiere using Harrison's fascinating Varied Trio for violin, piano, and percussion. Six men wearing brightly-colored camp shirts crawled on their bellies, crawled, and rose up to standing, like an evolutionary chart. Much of the piece uses big movement that eats up space. A man pretends to pass something to another; there are many lifts and partnering feats. The dynamic flicks between controlled and untethered. The pace builds until they're all moving swiftly and powerfully, their individual energies humming in a kind of spatial harmonic.
|Grand Duo. Photo: Nan Melville
In Program B, Morris put his castanet chops to further use in From Old Seville (2001), the only dance in which he performed in the run. This hilarious trio pits Lauren Grant—sleek and assassin-serious—against Morris in a faux flamenco dance-off. Morris seems more interested in the frequent drink breaks (poured by Noah Vinson) than the dancing, but never have more evil eyes been thrown in a modern dance. One Charming Night (1985) was another anticipated revival; Morris originally performed the role of the vampire, which this season was taken by his contemporary doppelganger, Dallas McMurray, dancing with the elegant (relative newcomer) Sarah Haarmann. Its lengthy bout of neck-biting seems a bit overly literal for Morris, but it showed McMurray's suavity and plush movement.
These "studio shows" toe the line between full-out proscenium productions and more casual events. What is perhaps most appealing about them is the family-style atmosphere, with Morris and his staff and ex-dancers greeting people warmly, and down-to-earth technical director giving the pre-curtain "phones off, exits are there" speech as a bus driver might announce the next stop. In a good way, of course. And last but not least, kudos to the six fantastic musicians led by Music Director Colin Fowler, who accompanied every minute of the two programs.