I had the great pleasure of seeing Mark Morris’ L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato at Lincoln Center, during the piece’s 25th anniversary run. I could attempt to wax poetic about the beauty I saw on stage, but that would be redundant and probably very boring. I will start by saying only that it was a joy to behold.

<i>L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato</i> © Elaine Mason
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato
© Elaine Mason

Much has been said already about Mr Morris’ reverential attention to music and harmonious interplay of groupings and stage elements – his mise-en-scène, if you will – and I don’t intend to retread those paths. Instead I will say two things: First, I remember vividly discussing Mr Morris’ general genius in a college dance criticism class. Already an ardent admirer of his work, though I couldn’t articulate why, I posed the question of where his most especial talents lay. Without skipping a beat, my professor answered that all could be found in his intricate and masterful command of spatial design. This has stayed with me; I continue to agree with this sentiment. In the finale of L’Allegro, when the dancers had criss-crossed in lines over and over again, and later formed concentric circles – when the stage was ablaze with color and swishing skirts – I found myself leaning forward in my seat, as if to absorb the moment’s sweetness via osmosis.

The second thing I will say is that Mr Morris has cultivated a troupe of dancers who infuse his work with rare displays of personality. “Personality” is sort of a dreaded word to use in this sense, but I do not mean to say that the dancers upstage each other or in any way take the focus away from the movement and the harmony of the piece. Rather, I mean to say that his performers have the uncanny ability to take a single moment and crystallize it, giving it fresh meaning and careful detail – it is as if a microcosm of this already joyous and beautiful world has bloomed, and we are given a few seconds to observe its innards. Dallas McMurray is an imp, frolicking across the stage with a giggle-inducing pomposity and sprinting stag leaps. But Noah Vinson is even better: his legs, skinny and in tights, allow him to prance around perfectly, with upturned nose. He is funniest in the section where two circles of men, each partnered up, alternate between kissing their companions and slapping them across the face. Mr Vinson is appropriately disdainful and passionate in his kissing and slapping, respectively. He seems ever-boyish and daintily graceful.

Maile Okamura is such a liquid mover that it is hard to see where she herself leaves off and the movement begins. Her quiet carefulness gives this piece its heft – her limbs seem to reach in many directions at once, commanding attention. And when Lauren Grant arrives onstage, it is difficult to look at anyone else. She is bubbly and sure, as if she came out of the womb dancing this piece.

It is trite but it is true: this piece is everything people claim it to be.