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The Independent Culture
Crazy For You, New Theatre,

Cardiff (01222 878889)

When Mark Morris's production of Handel's L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato played the Edinburgh Festival in 1995, even those offering to sell their bodies to box-office staff couldn't get a ticket. So what do you call someone who has seen it 15 times? Answer - lucky. As a Mark Morris virgin, I was on my way to see it last week when a fellow critic confided that he had indeed seen it that many times. "It's one of the great masterpieces of 20th-century art," he said, simply.

He was right, but given that the six- performance London run is now over (read it and weep), I shan't drive you to distraction by reviewing something you can't see. Anyway, those who did manage to bag a seat will still be too busy revelling in its shimmering glories to wish to suffer my dribblings upon the subject. Nonetheless, it occurred to me during the interval that along with the rest of the world, it should be compulsory viewing for all playwrights and theatre directors.

Eh? Watching dance on television has led to the mistaken impression that the art form is solely about bodies and movement. In fact, choreography is about movement in space, the third dimension which television cannot convey. Watching Morris's dancers rushing past each other across the glowing expanse of the vast coliseum stage or linking arms and dividing up the stage with long flowing chains of human bodies, you became intensely aware of what the configurations of people can do. Morris charges up the atmosphere simply by the placement of bodies in different parts of the stage, creating emotion out of the tension between different groupings of dancers.

Even in musicals, choreography is too often regarded as an add-on rather than an essence. The huge gospel number 40 minutes into The Fix threatens to blow the roof off, but instead of building on the audience's excitement, Sam Mendes switches on a revolve and the number slumps. You sit back and admire the budget and technical skill, but the excitement goes out of the window.

At the opposite extreme comes Crazy For You. This rewritten Gershwin show has a hit number every five minutes but it is Susan Stroman's choreography that takes your breath away and makes your pulse race (imagine what it's doing to the dancers). You want to see what charismatic, characterful, daredevil choreography can do to a show? Check out the thrilling finale to act one.

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