Edinburgh Festival: Dance: Mark Morris Dance Group Festival Theatre

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The Independent Culture
The Mark Morris Dance Group made its fifth consecutive appearance at Edinburgh Festival this week and celebrated the event with a new work for the Festival's 50th anniversary. The premiere I don't want to love was the finale of a quadruple bill of older work dating back to Morris's 1981 Ten Suggestions, which he danced himself. Baryshnikov has danced this pink pyjama'd gem with a childlike innocence; Morris's reading is more roguish. The second work, World Power, takes its name from Mark Twain's scathing comments about US involvement in the Philippine War. The 14 performers ape the dances of the East and the mesmeric chains of movement are bathed in Michael Chybowski's lighting that makes the dancers seem like luminous figures dancing in darkness.

World Power is accompanied by a Lou Harrison composition played by the South Bank Gamelan Players. The ability to select surprising but utterly fitting pieces of music is one of Morris's greatest gifts, but the 1990 piece Behemoth uses no music at all. One of the powerful things about works danced in silence is that the audience, in endeavouring not to break the spell, tends to hold its breath. Unfortunately, at Wednesday's matinee this nervous hush was sometimes interrupted by an over-appreciative house. Morris's complex geometry directs the 15 dancers through a 35-minute scheme of ensemble and group dances. Individuals periodically escape the group to strike heroic poses. The percussive power of the human foot is exploited to the full in the final segment, which beats an urgent tattoo in which the feet are used like the hands of a conga player: stamping bass notes with the heel and slapping lighter beats with the tips of the toes.

The programme concludes with the new commission I don't want to love danced to Monteverdi madrigals performed by Concerto Italiano. The initially joyous parades evoke Botticelli's Primavera although Isaac Mizrahi's gorgeously grungey whites are more Haight Ashbury than High Renaissance costumes. The initially light and whimsical character of the dance is darkened by the sadder complexion of songs like Lamento della ninfa.