Stage Access Presents MARK MORRIS DANCE GROUP’S GRAND DUO Dance Review — Dance as Music Megaphone

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The namesake duo is never seen but is always center stage …


They are the violin and piano animating Mark Morris’s choreographic salute, or one such tip of the hat, to the music of Lou Harrison that so inspired him.  

Wearing tunics or bare chested in sarong-like garb, the dancers emerge from the darkened stage. From beginning to end, their movements almost seem to be a call and response to the two instruments — sometimes amplifying one side of the musical dialogue and sometimes the other. When the piano thunders the kind of dark chords that could open a sci-fi thriller film, arms emerge up high from stiff torsos into two-fingered points, ever angling in new directions.  It is akin to seeing a flock of birds feeling the onset of a thunderstorm. As the music energizes, their entire arms move up and down. You, too, may feel they are following musical commands to do so, with no choice. When the violin takes over, arms outstretch to finger curls yet again to its high-note energy. For this writer, it was as though Morris and Harrison’s collaboration let us spy in on the moment when dinosaurs realize they are possibly now birds.

Stage Access Presents a Dance World Classic

In solo spots, duets, triplets, and, most of all as a full ensemble, the Mark Morris Dance Group brings three different moods to this score by Harrison. Not plot-driven but gesture-rich, Morris’s choreography is laced with micro-vignettes open to interpretation, as if inviting us to share in a wordless session on an analyst’s couch, dissecting a dream bordering on nightmare. When the second scene opens, the dancers are like mechanical toys intent on using their bodies to dazzle us with geometries. At another point, the ensemble breaks into sparring gangs periodically fast frozen into poses. Those idiosyncratic two-finger bird gestures hint at a return when they emerge from dancers alternating between motionless pose and unstoppable. It’s as if the dancers are cemented to the violin’s rant — and it is ranting.

In the third scene, the violin shouts — time for frenzy!

The dancers slap their torsos and sometimes make similar slap noises by kicking their thighs. For this writer, these moments alone make Grand Duo worth watching.

Grand Duo is a must-see for anyone with a deep admiration for contemporary dance and especially for those who are devoted to modern choreography that is widely viewed as classic.  Stage Access now provides this and all its offerings in dance, opera, and classical music for free during a seven-day trial period.




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To watch, visit the Grand Duo webpage on the Stage Access website.

Images courtesy of Stage Access

Amy Munice

About the Author: Amy Munice

Amy Munice is Editor-in-Chief and Co-Publisher of Picture This Post. She covers books, dance, film, theater, music, museums and travel. Prior to founding Picture This Post, Amy was a freelance writer and global PR specialist for decades—writing and ghostwriting thousands of articles and promotional communications on a wide range of technical and not-so-technical topics.

Amy hopes the magazine’s click-a-picture-to-read-a-vivid-account format will nourish those ever hunting for under-discovered cultural treasures. She especially loves writing articles about travel finds, showcasing works by cultural warriors of a progressive bent, and shining a light on bold, creative strokes by fledgling artists in all genres.


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