The short “Prélude et Prélude” is, as its title suggests, a kind of paired dance. Accompanied by Fowler and Valtchev performing Henry Cowell’s heartwarming but melancholy “Set of Two for Violin and Harpsichord”, the nine actors find themselves on stage diagonally, each holding a folded fan. In the first of the two sections, one, Dallas McMurray, is thrown off the diagonal while the others remain, performing a looping series of stylized but hesitant poses like friezes come to life. The fans become arm extensions, or masks for the faces, or a deceptively modest blanket for the crotch. McMurray, meanwhile, his mask now folded and squeezed into that mouth, rolls gently across the floor, stomach first, as if floating in a pool, or balancing on one leg, his opposite arm slowly drawing a circle. in the air. In the second part, McMurray is the only placeholder in the row, while the others dissipate, now spread across the stage. It’s an evocative, slightly fun dance, like a private joke that doesn’t quite get the punchline.
There’s no shy cover-up in “Sport”: Morris’s new frolic wears his silly infectious heart on his sleeve. For Erik Satie’s “Sports and Entertainment” – a series of often witty, some quite short, vignettes for solo piano, with various titles indicating athletic or leisurely play – the 12 dancers perform a continuous cascade of dance skits. / mime with a liveliness that is both cartoonish and impassive. Dressed in Elizabeth Kurtzman’s playful two-tone jumpsuits, sets of three dancers become playground swings; a short tennis match is played with comic pain; a hunting party is formed in a flash, and several beloved rabbits descend, halfway up. It’s almost too cute, all of it, but the unmistakable artistry – of Morris’s directing, of performing the dancers, of Fowler’s acting – elevates the work. It’s easy fun.
Valtchev joins Fowler again for a piano / violin arrangement of “Songs Without Words” by Felix Mendelssohn, the score for Morris’ exquisite “Words 2014”. While the company is only showing snippets of the work this week, there is a clear sense of integrity connected to the pieces. A series of duets anchor the dance, with Laurel Lynch and Brandon Randolph arching and vanishing deeply against each other, their passion lavishly expressed, while Brandon Cournay and Noah Vinson’s desire is continually thwarted, their anguish. visceral as they bend inward, their hands clench and claw their own faces or bellies.
The closest, Morris’s 1993 “Grand Duo” is a masterpiece. Named after Lou Harrison’s composition for violin and piano, the work for 14 dancers begins strangely, the performers stoic in wide positions, their hands framing their basins. A breath of apprehension is complemented by the ceremonial quality of most groups and dance phrases, but those stormy skies hold up. While the last section might be a yardage polka, there is nothing light and prancing about it. It is a gloriously anchored composition, with an implacable rhythm which is built with a sort of ritual fervor. Oh, how the musicians play and how the dancers go on, relentlessly. We feel their breath, their effort; how our hearts beat, beat and beat with theirs.
MARK MORRIS DANCE GROUP & MUSIC GROUP
At the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Becket, until Sunday. Tickets $ 35- $ 78. 413-243-0745, www.jacobspillow.org
Janine Parker can be reached at [email protected]