Coupling music and movement has always been at the heart of Mark Morris's creative process. To bring that central spark to the stage, his company performs only to live music. January 26 _28 in the Opera House, the Mark Morris Dance Group performs Morris's masterwork L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, "a joyous and enthralling fusion of dance, music, and theatrical magic" (The Chicago Tribune). The dancers move to the lush sounds of a 1740 oratorio from Handel played by the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra under the baton of Jane Glover.
This evening-length work, last performed at the Kennedy Center more than a decade ago, marked Morris's debut in 1988 as Director of Dance at the Th_ê¢tre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels. Created during a period when some in the dance world shunned the incorporation of music, Mark Morris Dance Group lets Handel and the poetic verses of John Milton: sung here by sopranos Lisa Saffer and Christine Brandes, tenor John McVeigh, baritone Thomas Meglioranza, and The Washington Bach Consort Chorus, directed by J. Reilly Lewis: lead the way through timeless scenes of dancers delighting in pastoral beauty. The result is a dance masterpiece that the New York Times hails as "a glorious outpouring of dance invention and humanistic imagery," and that Joan Acocella of the New Yorker says is "widely considered one of the great dance works of the 20th century."
In an April 2011 Los Angeles Times article, veteran Mark Morris dancer June Omura recalled the time in Brussels "as an amazing adventure. Mark knew the music so well that his choreography came out faster than most human beings could put up with," she says. "If you lost your concentration for a second, you were called out. Looking back, that was one of the most intense and hardest rehearsal periods." Dancer Maile Okamura, who joined the company in 2001, said, "I love that this piece has stayed with us. The beauty of it is that you can age with it and experience it with different people who you dance with over the years."
Explore the Arts
Free post-performance discussion with members of the company on January 26. Participatory Master Class for intermediate to advanced level dancers on January 24. Participatory Community Class for beginner level dancers on January 28.