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Mark Morris goes again to Bacharach in ‘The Look of Love’ at Kennedy Middle


One-time maverick choreographer Mark Morris is now mature sufficient to gather Social Safety. In one other millennium, method again in 1985, his Mark Morris Dance Group made its Kennedy Middle debut upstairs within the Terrace Theater. Again then he had lengthy brunette ringlets of curls, a delicate and understanding ear for music, and a artful method of interlacing trendy dance with every part from Bach to nation, East Indian raga to punk. And it labored. His younger firm of ten dancers exuberantly tackled the insouciant steps that had been each sensible and sly.

Since, Morris and his firm have change into establishments within the oft-precious trendy dance world. He has been again to the Kennedy Middle many, many instances. By way of Saturday, October 29, the corporate is ensconced on the Eisenhower with Morris’ latest work, The Look of Love, an hour-and-change work set to Nineteen Sixties and ’70s pop icon Burt Bacharach’s hits.

Mark Morris Dance Group in ‘The Look of Love’ world premiere at BroadStage in Santa Monica October 2022. Picture by Skye Schmidt.

On the heels of the corporate’s final Kennedy Middle present in 2019, when it introduced Pepperland, an easy-listening, brightly coloured homage to the Beatles’ Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Membership Band. Again in ’85 at his first DC program, the corporate danced to Vivaldi, Bach, and the Violent Femmes. Nothing was experimental, nevertheless it all felt recent, carried out with frisson. Morris’ latest forays into child boomer songbooks align effectively with the Broadway retreads of jukebox musicals.

Morris followers know effectively that his facility with musicality and his requirement to all the time use dwell music. On the Eisenhower Theater, the corporate music ensemble featured music arranger and long-time MMDG collaborator Ethan Iverson on piano, and gorgeous-voiced Marcy Harriell rendering Bacharach’s songs — with most lyrics by Hal David — in considerate jazz renditions, with backup vocals by Clinton Curtis and Blaire Reinhard, joined by Jonathan Finlayson on trumpet, Simon Willson on bass, Vinnie Sperrazza on drums. The ensemble performs within the elevated orchestra pit, and Harriell, glamorous in her bare-shouldered gown, usually turns to sing to the dancers on stage.

Raised in Forest Hills, New York, Bacharach, 94, attended the identical highschool as Simon and Garfunkle and Michael Landon. A baby piano scholar, he favored jazz and later in California studied with mid-century modernist composers Henry Cowell, Bohuslav Martinu, and Darious Milhaud, who he cites as his biggest affect. But it surely’s songs like “Alfie,” “I Say a Little Prayer,” “I’ll By no means Fall in Love Once more,” and “What the World Wants Now” that outlined pop music for the Nineteen Sixties and ’70s era. Full of life, singable tales of affection, longing, loss, and connection, with an occasional shadow tossed in. Morris chosen 14 indelible songs from the Bacharach songbook starting with a jazzy instrumental riff on “Alfie” — certainly many heard Dionne Warwick singing of their heads.

On the empty stage a number of scattered folding chairs stand — one of many cliches of contemporary dance is the chair as a prop. It suggests the choreographer wants a tool and that’s all that’s out there within the rehearsal room.

The dancers enter to strains of the feel-good anthem “What the World Wants Now,” clad in sunny pastel tunics, shorts, pants, or attire colour blocked in melon-y orange, lime inexperienced, sunny yellow, ochre, and starburst pink. Morris is a grasp of manipulating easy motion patterns and weaving them into advanced spatially shifting phrases. Followers of folks dance will acknowledge normal footwork that includes stomps, grapevine, and triplet steps in converging and separating traces and round paths. One other favourite Morris-ism may very well be termed music visualization, when he has dancers imitate gestures that match the lyrics. It’s like he’s checking to see if we’re listening and watching sufficient to get his little “Easter eggs.” When the lyrics proclaim: “There are mountains and hillsides sufficient to climb,” in pairs, one dancer falls as one other lifts an arm up — creating the bottom and peak of the mountain. Later, accompanying “There are sunbeams and moonbeams sufficient to shine,” one dancer pushes an arm upward with a one-footed hop on solar, the second follows within the different path on moon as a raised arm signifies a moonbeam.

Subsequent, to “I’ll By no means Fall in Love Once more,” on the phrase “What do you get if you kiss a man? You get sufficient germs to catch pneumonia,” slightly chase ensues earlier than one dancer forces a sneeze on cue at pneumonia. Many times, Morris has the dancers mimic the lyrics in methods which are straightforward, apparent, and cute. In my school choreography class this “Mickey Mousing” the music was denigrated as too simplistic. I feel it’s change into a simple go-to for Morris; it makes the viewers really feel that they “get” trendy dance whereas letting them really feel “sensible.”

Morris is at his finest at inventing and reshuffling dancers in evolving ground patterns right here. With ten dancers transferring in, shifting into duos and trios, or enjoying a soloist in opposition to the group his amiable locomotor walks, runs, skips, skitters, and leaps shuffle and reshuffle the panorama on stage. And all this patterning principally jives with Bacharach’s jazzy, refined syncopations that add curiosity to his normal 4/4 widespread time musicality.

In Harriell’s churchy rendition of “Don’t Make Me Over,” dancers flop and tumble, making an attempt for quirky opposition, then punch a fist within the air. For “All the time One thing There to Remind Me,” the gesture of selection is pulling on, off, or straightening garments, as if miming altering an outfit is sufficient to overlook an outdated lover. For lovers, misplaced, discovered, needed, and wanting are what Bacharach’s lyricist pens so adeptly.

One oddity, “The Blob,” incorporates a dissonant clatter of horns, drums, and piano because the dancers clump collectively in a pile-up of chairs and limbs in opposition to Nicole Pearce’s eerie, blood-red lighting on the backdrop. At first, I believed this creepy begin would morph into “What’s New Pussycat?” However, no, a fast Google search informed me Bacharach really composed the movie music, and theme music, for the 1958 movie The Blob. And that’s what occurred: they created a blob of our bodies and chairs earlier than transferring on.

The night music cycle concluded with “I Say a Little Prayer,” and right here Morris introduced the corporate full circle, returning dancers to the opening circle, as they intersect in a little bit of a basket weave. Some now-expected goofy actions — dancers’ arms flapping like wings of graceless angels, as they parse out a pony-like bounce — garner amusing or two. Then a lexicon of the gestural motifs is recapitulated as the corporate, two-by-two, one-by-one, makes their method off stage, leaving a lone dancer to exit. The Look of Love ends not on a excessive word, a shiny word, or perhaps a grace word, however on a breathy “Amen.” It’s like a sigh — of reduction, of longing, of completion, maybe. But it surely feels insufficient, even incomplete.

All through, the dancers adeptly work by means of Morris’ signature paces, however for essentially the most half, they don’t venture any explicit deep feeling to the motion, the music, and even each other. Typically they had been simply going by means of their paces fairly than reveling within the music visualizations. It’s as in the event that they’re nonetheless wanting — for inspiration, for methods to completely love and embrace this new work. And it’s a disgrace as a result of the musicianship of the ensemble ought to draw these dancers in, however they haven’t absolutely dedicated themselves to loving The Look of Love.

Working Time: One hour 5 minutes, no intermission.

The Look of Love by Mark Morris Dance Group [ https://www.kennedy-center.org/whats-on/explore-by-genre/dance/2022-2023/mark-morris-dance-group/  ] by means of October 29, 2022, within the Eisenhower Theater within the John F. Kennedy Middle for the Performing Arts Opera Home, 2700 F Avenue NW, Washington, DC. Tickets ($29–$119) can be found on the field workplace, on-line, or by calling (202) 467-4600 or (800) 444-1324.

This system for The Look of Love is on-line right here.

COVID Security: Masks are elective in all Kennedy Middle areas for guests and employees. When you desire to put on a masks, you’re welcome to take action. See Kennedy Middle’s full COVID Security Plan right here.

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