This is the last review of Mark Morris I can write because both of us are becoming insufferably repetitive. He keeps adhering slavishly to the music, and I keep ragging about it. We're turning into a Pavlovian experiment: He rings his bell; I bitch.
Mark Morris Dance Group
The latest installment in our critical tango is prompted by his show at Meany Hall last week. Among other lesser choreographic offenses on the program (1982's well-known Canonic 3-4 Studies, 1998's Medium) was embedded a world premiere, Dancing Honeymoon. The biggest piece of music visualization produced by Morris to date, Honeymoon was surely meant to be kitschy, but instead arrived insipid and cloying.
As Gertrude Lawrence and Jack Buchan-an swooned through '30s love songs, seven dancers twittered and frolicked on folding chairs, pantomiming lyrics and generally cavorting in a manner unappealing at any age above that of legal consent. The first few foot flickings in the tipped-back chairs charmed. But after 15 minutes of the same, even the most optimistic viewer had to be annoyed. Elizabeth Kurtzman's pert, sporty costumes in various shades of yellow showed off to great advantage the women's shapely legs. Michael Chybowski's pale red and deep blue lighting created a look that alternated between the pastoral and the cartoonish. The perfect, stylized '30s setting was slick—evidence of big corporate backing. But the choreography didn't live up to it. Morris' childish musical pranks were clever enough to amuse, but Honeymoon failed to reveal or spur deep thought or feeling.
Fortunately, Dancing Honeymoon wasn't the only piece on the program. Morris' fine Grand Duo (1993), set to music by the same name, pits violin against a piano and the dancers against each other. Stomping, pelvic beating, and archaic movement gave way to dancers arranging themselves into pinwheel patterns on the stage. The results sometimes resembled tribal warfare, at other times an ancient mating ritual.
At his best and worst, Morris is influenced by music. Sometimes his choreography adds something greater to the music. At other times, the dancing is just a sideshow. You watch it because it happens to be there in front of you.