Mark Morris Dance Group, review

4.00

Sadler’s Wells, London

American choreographer Mark Morris is unpredictable. From romping in woolly socks to the surreal comic songs of Ivor Cutler, to the clean surface and mysterious depths of the Satie’s account of the death of Socrates, he and his dancers are bold, varied and utterly distinctive.

Now 57, Morris is one of dance’s major figures. He’s celebrated for his response to music, the juiciness of his dance style and his immediate connection with audiences. He’s very popular in the UK, but it’s three years since his company’s last visit. Across two eclectic programmes, he showed seven works, all UK premieres.

The Muir is danced to Beethoven’s arrangement of Scottish and Irish folk songs, sung by soprano Jennifer France and tenor Zach Finkelstein. The dancers dip and flirt, but the piece loses spontaneity.  In Crosswalk, to Weber, dancers rush past each other. Two spin as they pass – and a third drops, as if knocked off balance by the crosswind. Morris picks out rhythms with unexpected shimmies, dancers diving into rolls and striding onwards.

Socrates is the highlight of Programme A. Satie’s three-part score is cool and apparently detached. Pianist Colin Fowler plays hypnotic, repeated motifs as Finkelstein sings of Socrates’ virtues, remembers a walk by the river and describes the philosopher’s death.

Morris’ choreography is gestural but not narrative. No single dancer plays Socrates, though several act moments described in the score. “Speakers” recline or take statuesque poses as other dancers move in pairs, overtaking and circling each other. For the river walk, the cast of fifteen cross the stage, from left to right, like a flow of water, in rippling walks and floating runs.

Different groups act out the death of Socrates, forming circles and regrouping. As he dies, the dancers drop one, but shiver with movement on the last note. Steps and performance are as lucid as the music, without histrionics. The restraint becomes moving, something dark and strange beneath the surface.

Programme B kicks off with the exuberant Excursions. Six dancers, in bright colours, move in tight formation, with squared elbows or tipped torsos to Barber’s bright piano music.

A Wooden Tree is delightfully daft. Dressed in plaid shirts and lurid knitwear, the dancers play out the folksy weirdness of Ivor Cutler. As his precise Scottish voice wanders through peculiar domestic incident, they respond with manic precision. They snap into place or whisk each other about like animated but protesting dolls, or swoop through country dance steps with superb comic timing.

Jenn and Spencer, named for its dancers Jenn Weddel and Spencer Ramirez, is an intense duet to Henry Cowell. Weddel, a tall, blonde woman, moves with stormy grandeur, matched by Ramirez’s direct grace. From striding steps to whirling lifts, the duet gives both dancers a fierce independence.

Festival Dance, to a perky piano trio by Hummel, makes a buoyant finale. Dancers walk in and skip in lines, flow and sway into solos and duets. They zigzag through unexpected exits and entrances, then sail joyfully onwards.

Until 1 December. Box office 0844 412 4300

Arts and Entertainment
Loading individual letters on to an original Heidelberg printing press
books
Arts and Entertainment
Shades of glory: Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend

Glastonbury Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend will perform with Paul Weller as their warm-up act

Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

    'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

    In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
    VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

    How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

    Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
    They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

    Typefaces still matter in the digital age

    A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
    Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

    'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

    New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
    The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

    Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

    Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

    Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
    Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

    Crisp sales are in decline

    As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
    Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

    Ronald McDonald the muse

    A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
    13 best picnic blankets

    13 best picnic blankets

    Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
    Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

    Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

    Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
    Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

    Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

    Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'