I wrote about the Mark Morris Dance Group for San Francisco Classical Voice yesterday:

“Last week marked the first return of the Mark Morris Dance Group to UC Berkeley since Robert Cole’s retirement and Matías Tarnopolsky’s start as director of Cal Performances; Friday at Zellerbach Hall, it was good to see that not much has changed. The choreographer best known for illuminating complex scores and the dancers known for making virtuosity out of unaffected humanity were both doing just that — yet, in unexpected ways, Morris may have raised the bar.

The program included one dance to silence, one in which the piano player was a ghostly absence, and a West Coast premiere taking on Satie’s Socrate, one of that composer’s oddest and most resolutely unmelodic works. The sum effect was of a soothing, purifying tonic. You walked out of the theater with a clear head and an open heart.

Socrate was performed in the piano and tenor arrangement, with beautiful clarity and calm by pianist Colin Fowler and tenor Michael Kelly. Morris clearly designed this treatment to give these musicians, and the music, equality of attention. This seemed wise, given the score’s ethos of dignified self-effacement, not to mention the amount of context for the audience to take in.

Above the stage, the text from Plato’s Phaedrus appeared in supertitles, and below, the calibrated simplicity of the dancing allowed watchers to lift their eyes to the words at regular intervals without missing something crucial in the choreography. The movement was made up mostly of repetitive skips, prances, and lunges that brought to mind some of the most affecting sections of Morris’ classic L’Allegro, Il Penseroso ed Il Moderato. Yet despite the surface plainness, a deeper formal scheme emerged, subtly reconciling opposites into a solemn spiritual and logical harmony.”

Keep reading here.

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