Professor Karen A. Studd
Reaction Paper for Mark Morris Dance Group
On February 28, I watched the performance by Mark Morris Dance Group at the Center For The Arts on Fairfax campus. The whole performance contained four works sets and each of them had various style of choreography. Personally, I choose to respond the second works set, a jagged tableau of ecstatic rhythms, “Grand Duo” because it is a great combination of music and movement and this combination them left me memories and imagery.
In the opening occasion, the dancers began the performance with their shocking rhythm, made breakneck gestures and flung their legs up toward the flies in strength, joy and mirth. Then the dancers on the stage area extended their arms high above into a stream of light, so that only their hands became very bright, almost like birds floating above the darkness, was stunning. Meanwhile, there were a pianist and a violinist sitting besides the stage, playing the haunting-to-thrilling music of Lou Harrison.
Throughout, dancers moved in and out of geometric formations that echoed the music’s quiet moments and bursts. They used a piece of clothing as a prop or costume element. Every time the dancers changed the formation and positions, they first gathered behind the piece of clothing and quickly completing the required movement at a high level of proficiency. They threw their legs high, they jumped and turned in such synchrony with the music, quickly forming a line or clump and stretching their bodies, making me feel I was watching that the sound directly came from dancers’ bodies. Sometimes dancers suddenly fluid their arms and legs; sometimes they scampered briskly; sometimes they leaned heavily as the tempo of the music became slow, or they just kept their bodies unmoved when the music stopped after a sustained time of burst. The dancers were responding to the internal impulse inside themselves which was inspired by the accompaniment of Harrison’s music. The variations of different movements added an extra layer of dramatic tension and relaxation.
In another way, the sheer motor force of the movement, its ferocious repetitions, gave Harrison’s music flesh, exposed its dramas. I do think it is a successful practice of realizing music visualization in the history of dance. When I was in my home country, I saw many choreographers make good use of music. In the performances, the dancer responded to the beat, to rising and falling dynamics. But in most cases they contained too many repetitive melodies throughout the performance, sometimes lowered the quality of musicality and made it impossible to realize the musical visualization. It is not the case with Mr. Morris, who showed the audience his outstanding ability of choreography by putting human bodies into stunning motion. In “Grand Duo”, every dancer’s movement from the beginning to the end kept pace with the rhythm of Lou Harrison’s music perfectly.
Mr. Morris not only intended to thrill audiences simply with the exquisite beauty and delightful wit of the choreographer, but also