Mark Morris Dance Group
Cal Performances. Friday, December 17, 2021 8 PM
Zellerbach Hall, UC Berkeley
The Mark Morris Dance Group returned to UC Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall during the weekend of December 17-19, 2021. In other years Morris has brought his “Nutcracker” satire,” The Hard Nut” for the Berkeley audience. This year, we were treated to a repertory of older works. The program featured several group dances and one duet, all performed to live music (works by Handel, Cowell, Schumann) and an arrangement of nostalgic songs, sung by Morris! and Mary Sherhart. A small group of excellent musicians accompanied the dancers….live!
For this reviewer, the duet entitled “Jenn and Spencer,” danced by Karlie Budge and Brandon Randolph was the ‘hit’ of the evening. To Henry Cowell’s “Suite for Violin and Piano” (played by Georgy Valtchev, violin; Colin Fowler, piano), the two dancers created beautifully shaped movement designs and encounters, displaying superb technique and intimate relationships. Karlie Budge, in a long dress and flowing hair, was both dramatic and acrobatic; Brandon Randolf supported and extended all the movement.
Morris got into the act (with soprano Mary Sherhart) by singing in “Dancing Honeymoon,” a selection of songs from past times, including “You Were Meant for Me,” “Do Do Do,” “Someone to Watch Over Me,” “A Cup of Coffee, A Sandwich, and You” and others. The work, from 1998, was danced by Mica Bernas, Brandon Cournay, Sarah Haarmann, Aaron Loux, Laurel Lynch, Billy Smith, and Noah Vinson.
I don’t know if they all had “tongue in cheek” but the work is charming, funny and delightful.The evening began with “Water” for the company of thirteen dancers to Handel’s “Water Music”.
Indeed the energy and grouping for the thirteen dancers flowed beautifully with many surprises in group patterns, gestures and intriguing floor designs. There is much ‘balletic movement” extended by Morris’ ability to enliven the stage with varying cast groupings, entrances and exits.
The closing work “V” to Schumann’s Quintet in E flat major for Piano and Strings, Op. 44, for fourteen dancers, was less pleasing to this viewer since the dance vocabulary was repetitious and continually ‘on the beat,” which may be accurate but often grows rhythmically very dull. Half the group was consumed in long light green outfits; the other half was in bright blue jackets and shorts. It was impossible not to become entranced by naked legs and bare midriffs as the dancers crawled across the stage, on the staccato beat of the music. Still and all, they are a great ensemble of dancers. They are:
Mica Bernas, Karlie Budge, Brandon Cournay, Domingo Estrada, Jr., Leslie Garison, Sarah,Haarmann, Deepa Liegel, Aaron Loux, Laurel Lynch, Dallas McMurray, Maile Okamura, Brandon Randolph, Christina Sahaida, Billy Smith, Noah Vinson and Malik Q. Williams.
All choreography is by Mark Morris. He has created a great ensemble and a superb repertory, brought fame to Brooklyn (where the company has a gorgeous home) and brought a renewed delight in live music as accompaniment for dance. Bravo Mark! And to all the performers.