writers on dancing



covering the dance scene in the San Francisco Bay Area


September 15 , 2003

Majestic Harmony from a Different Time

Mark Morris Dance Group
l'Allegro, il Penseroso, ed il Moderato
Zellerbach Hall
September 4, 2003

reviewed by Paul Parish

It's hard to believe there are readers of DanceviewWest who aren't familiar with l'Allegro, il Penseroso, ed il Moderato, but I ran into so many people I knew outside Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley last Thursday night, where the Mark Morris Dance Company opened the Cal Performances season with a revival of this great and famous work, who had never seen it before that I suppose I'd better believe it. They had stars in their eyes, as I did back in 1994 when we first saw it on the West Coast.

It's a big show: two hours worth of dancing, with a big cast of dancers (24, which is a lot for modern dance), the Philharmonia Baroque orchestra in the pit, the University Chorus, and five virtuoso soloist-singers performing Handel's great oratorio the ballet is named for, amidst a phenomenal set of sliding scrims and drops in ravishing jewel-toned colors, which descend and rise in a dance of their own that makes a play of color which hurries away the soul.

The moving pictures Morris has set to Handel's music remind me most of Disney's Fantasia. I mean that in the nicest possible way: he respects all the talents involved, as Handel has respected Milton's great pastoral odes which he set to music, indeed very much in the same spirit as Handel. L'Allegro is admiring, even worshipful, without being at all fawning. From beginning to end, what's going on in the music reflects what's going on in the text, and what's going on in the dance is a glad response to the score.

full article

A Dark Look at a Dark World

Mark Morris Dance Group
All Fours (world premiere); Grand Duo, Serenade, Going Away Party
Zellerbach Hall
September 12, 2003

reviewed by Rachel Howard

If the revival of L’Allegro lulled us with known comforts, the world premiere one week later caught us off-guard with its foreignness and risk, and broken violin strings proved the least of its treacheries. All Fours, set to Bartok’s disturbing fourth string quartet, is very unusual for Morris. So much of Morris’ work carries the pedigree of high modernism, and yet this new piece seems to channel the early 1930’s classic modernism of Graham and (as far as I can deduce not from first-hand viewing but from photos, reading, and videos) especially Humphrey. An eight-person chorus in black buzzes anxiously about the stage, stalking like birds of prey, raising hands in desperate prayer above heads. They are not, as in so many Morris dances, a group of individuals, but a mass, the faceless force of society itself. Their echelons and their faintly beatnik attire and especially the way they strike strident poses on the music’s harsh chords—arms held with clenched fists, one hand covering ear with the other held as if to keep an evil force at bay—speak from a different age.

full article

Shapeshifting from Siberia

International Arts Festival
in conjunction with the San Francisco World Music Festival
Ancestors of Siberia, part one
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
Friday, September 12, 2003

reviewed by Ann Murphy

It ís rare to be sent hurtling over distant grasslands and vast mountain spaces during a performance, but Friday nightís quietly sublime, deeply humble concert, Ancestors of Siberia (part one), tossed the audience into a world of open land, forests, volcanoes, and a menagerie of animal life. Like any serious cross-cultural experience, it echoed back to us how particular our own cultural expressions are. Ballet,or the hip hop festival taking place next door at the Forum, are our folk art, the echoes underscored, and although they go by other names, we too have shamans. We call them therapists.

The shamans Friday came from Tuva, Kamchatka, Altai and other places scattered around the vast Asiatic lands of Siberia, which extend from Ural Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. But as much as geography linked them, it was their shared relationship to nature, from the weight of snow and mud, to the wind and the spirit of animals, which bound them far more deeply than their joint inclusion in the land north of China.

. . .As only Meredith Monk can do in song and virtually no contemporary dancemaker does in dance in the West, these artists recreated the natural world as both a place of human and animal habitat and a realm of large, mysterious and animate spirit forces.

full article

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copyright 2003 by danceviewwest

page last updated on October 8, 2003


what's on this week
September 15-21

The San Francisco International Arts Festival presents this Brazilian company, led by choreographer Henrique Rodovahlo, in “Lend Me Your Eyes,” an exploration of grief.
Sept. 17, 8pm, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater, 700 Howard St., San Francisco, (415) 978-2787,

The San Francisco International Arts Festival powers onward with the Kathak-trained Khan, from Britain. His company dances “Kaash” (“What If”), bridging contemporary and classical Indian dance.
Sept. 18, 8pm, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater, 700 Howard St., San Francisco, (415) 978-2787,

Film critic David Thompson introduces a special screening of the classic ballet film starring Moira Shearer.
Sept. 18, 7:30pm, Castro Theater, 429 Castro St., San Francisco, (415) 621-6120.

The San Francisco International Arts Festival doesn’t let up. Tonight, this West African company gives the Bay Area premiere of “Figninto” (“The Torn Eye”), drawing on traditional African music and dance as well as contemporary choreography.
Sept. 19, 8pm, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater, 700 Howard St., San Francisco, (415) 978-2787,

Another SF International Arts Fest presentation, this time of local talent. Keith Hennessy, once a key member of Sara Shelton Mann’s Contraband, has run away to a very different kind of circus. His troupe marries the spectacle of aerial arts, acrobatics, and other stunts with serious social, political, and emotional themes. Their new show is titled “A Cabaret of Danger and Compassion.”
Sept. 20, 8pm, Sept. 21, 7pm, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Forum, 701 Mission St., San Francisco, (415) 978-2787,

—Rachel Howard

Calendar Listings source courtesy of IN DANCE, a FREE monthly publication of Dancers' Group at

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