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Mark Morris Dance Group (USA) - L'Allegr il Penseroso ed Il Moderato

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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Choreographer Mark Morris is hailed as one of contemporary dances front runners and his infamous production of L’Allegro, Il Penseroso Ed Il Moderato is one of his most celebrated works. Fellow critics jump for joy at Morris’s creation and wit, but is this enough to inspire a crowd outside of the contemporary dance circle?

I have to agree that Morris’s impeccable chorus of dancers are the cream of the crop in their precision and technique; each move is calculated to the finest detail yet still reflects the ‘organic’ approach towards presenting work that gives each dancer personality.

The piece is a literal embodiment of a pastoral oratorio by Handel, the patterns, shapes, and characters portrayed on stage fit the soaring orchestrations with a great sense of harmony.

The combination of the English National Opera Orchestra and The New London Chamber Choir creates a sense of event to the proceedings, elevating and highlighting the epic scale of the production.

Designed by Adrianne Lobel, the setting for the production is a constantly evolving palate of pastel coloured gauzes and light which especially compliments Morris’s signature comic interludes.

Whilst this production is clearly a highly respected and well formulated contemporary piece it is not without its flaws. Mark Morris has been asked whether this performance has any form of literal meaning, to which he replied that the adoration of ‘people’ and the organic, lyrical, eloquently mimetic musicality of movement is what lies at the production's core.

However, after two hours of this ‘celebration’ with no through comment, question, or narrative one can gradually loose attention and discount the production's relevance.

This was clearly demonstrated by members of the audience who were perhaps new-comers to the world of contemporary dance whom, in all honestly, seemed less than inspired by the proceedings.

Whilst Morris unashamedly admits that his work can be perceived as high-brow entertainment it is a dire shame that when displayed in a commercial venue the high-brow, perhaps what some may call pretentious, content may put early theatre goers off modern dance for good.

It’s a hard question to answer, but even when a fan of modern dance such as myself was a little perplexed by the length of its exploration and lack of comment or question one can assume that their response maybe a little far from positive. However, there is no denying that those who appreciate contemporary dance content and its excellence in execution will be more than entertained by the production.

- Ben Wooldridge


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