28 April 2015

Mark Morris' Spring

The Mark Morris Dance Group performing Spring, Spring, Spring (2013). Photo: Peg Skorpinski

Sunday I spent the afternoon doing one of my favourite things—watching the Mark Morris Dance Group perform. I am an unabashed fan of Morris and his company and love any opportunity to see them. This time it was a program at BAM that included two works I’d seen before—Crosswalk and Jenn and Spencer—and one that was making its New York premiere—Spring, Spring, Spring.

The first part of the program opened with Crosswalk. Set to Carl Maria von Weber’s 1816 Grand Duo Concertant for clarinet and piano, Op. 48, Crosswalk is a whimsical piece in which the dancers perform myriad movements from joyful leaps to somersaults to flapping their arms. One dancer even gets repeatedly knocked down. Towards the end, one of the women makes a running jump and is caught by the men who toss her up in the air and then carry off stage. It’s seamless and utterly delightful.

Jenn and Spencer (named for the two original dancers of the piece) is a duet set to Suite for Violin and Piano by Henry Cowell (1925). The two dancers (Jenn Weddel and Brandon Randolph) alternately grab for one another and push away, as if torn between desire and anger. It is the story of a relationship that ends with Jenn running off, leaving Spencer alone on the stage. Darkly beautiful, it's a perfect counterpoint to Crosswalk.

The second part of the program was the New York premiere of Spring, Spring, Spring, Morris’ version of The Rite of Spring, which Stravinsky originally created for Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes with choreography by Vaslav Nijinsky. When it was first performed in Paris in 1913 it was considered scandalous and caused fights to break out in the audience (allegedly objects were thrown at the performers as well).

While no fights broke out this time round, Morris did make a major departure from the original music by presenting a jazz interpretation performed live by the trio The Bad Plus (Morris’ works almost always includes live musical accompaniment). Spring, Spring, Spring begins with a darkened stage and the playing of a recording of the overture. The crashing sounds of a piano announce The Bad Plus and the arrival of the dancers.

The 15 dancers are dressed like idealized versions of flower children—the women in short, Grecian dresses with flowers in their hair and the bare-chested men in colourful pants and wreaths of vines on their heads. Together they weave in and out, sometimes holding hands and dancing in circles, reminiscent of folk dances. They break into groups and the women twirl like little girls at play. The men meanwhile leap like spirited woodland creatures, a nod perhaps to the original ballet.

The Rite of Spring is a story of a pagan ritual in which a virgin sacrifices herself by dancing to death. In Spring, Spring, Spring no one dies making it the ultimate reinterpretation. This is yet another work that I'm happy to see added to the Morris canon. 

One note about the venue, the Howard Gillman Opera House at BAM is gorgeous (it was designed in the teens by Herts and Tallant who created the New Amsterdam Theatre) but I caution anyone with a fear of heights about sitting in the balcony. I had a seat in the front and the steep incline had me thinking I was going to have an attack of vertigo while I walked down to my row. So if you're not good with heights, opt for a seat lower in the house when you go.

27 April 2015

The Answer

Washington Square Park. Photo by Michele.

Some days you wonder why you live in New York. The high costs, the crowds, the stress, the smells, the studio the size of a closet that you call home can cause you to question your life decisions. And then one sunny day you find yourself sitting on a bench in Washington Square Park listening to a man play Beethoven on a piano and you know the answer.

21 April 2015

Technical Difficulties

Apologies for the recent radio silence around here; it was due to technical difficulties—my laptop decided to stop working. I'm happy to announce though that one replaced logic board later, everything is back up and running. So stay tuned for some new posts coming soon.

05 April 2015

Happy Easter

Mary Pickford. Photo from here

Happy Easter! While I didn't go to the Easter Parade this year like I have in the past, I did head over to Brooklyn and Prospect Park Zoo where I spent the afternoon with my friend and her twins watching the sea lions and feeding the barn animals. Hope everyone had a lovely day.

03 April 2015

Happy Birthday, Doris Day!

The incredible Doris Day turns 93 today. Born Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff on April 3, 1922 in Cincinnati, Ohio, she began her career as a big band singer, scoring her first hit, Sentimental Journey, in 1945. She successfully transitioned to film and became one of the biggest stars of the 1950s and 60s, starring in a string of classic musicals, dramas, and comedies opposite the likes of Cary Grant, James Stewart, James Cagney, Rock Hudson, and James Garner (to name a few). 

After her television show, The Doris Day Show, finished its five-year run in 1973, Day retired from acting and devoted her time to helping animals. Her two charities—the Doris Day Animal Foundation and Doris Day Animal League (now part of the Humane Society of the United States)—have helped save and improve the lives of thousands of animals.

Day has always been a personal favourite. As a young girl I watched By the Light of the Silvery Moon, On Moonlight Bay, and That Touch of Mink dozens of times. Yet my all time favourite film of hers is Calamity Jane (1953), which I've talked about before on the blog. To this day, I still know each song by heart and never tire of watching her antics in glorious technicolour. So Happy Birthday, Doris Day! 


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