The Teatro Real de Madrid has finished 2012 and welcomed 2013 with an excellent dance company. Mark Morris Dance Group has come to the Spanish capital to offer only six performances of its internationally acclaimed Mozart Dances. Premièred in New York in 2006 during the Mostly Mozart Festival, the piece has three movements, “Eleven”, “Double” and “Twenty Seven”, respectively set to Mozart’s Piano Concerto no. 11, Sonata for two pianos in D major and Piano Concerto no. 12. The choreography Morris has created to match them is chiefly dominated by ensembles, mainly female in “Eleven” and mostly male in “Double”.
Mozart Dances is a plotless ballet, with no story to tell. Yet, it speaks about the human soul and is rich in the depiction of life experiences. The exploration of the human condition is done unpretentiously as the spectator never has the impression of being taught a transcendental lesson. She rather has the rewarding sense of recognizing personal thoughts and conclusions. This sensation is particularly strong during the joint circles of “Double”, where dancers, joined by their hands, seem to embark on a life journey. Together and in fraternity, they share the hardships and joys the trip imposes. The sheer simplicity of the movements conveys a feeling of poignant veracity.
One of the most prominent features of Mozart Dances is the perfect conjunction of music and dance. Morris’ movements seem either to stem directly from Mozart’s notes or to interact with them. They possess the same fluent flow of musical phrases and they combine in such a variety of ways that every step seems spontaneous and new. This is particularly admirable in a choreography built upon the development of themes and variations. Morris delights in using this device but never exhaust his sources. When a new variation of a motive or a sequence could create a feeling of monotony, he abandons it and starts the investigation of a different one. He sometimes revisits old images, especially during “Twenty Seven”. Not only does their reappearance give unity and coherence to the production but more importantly it awakes an emotion of tender joy at seeing an old friend.
As for the quality of the dancing, Morris’ choreography is dominated by graceful, elegant and beautiful movements which, however, are occasionally combined with slightly ungraceful steps. These unexpected awkward positions give emphasis, by contrast, to the beauty incarnated in their graceful counterparts and subtly startle the attentive audience. They add a touch of playfulness that matches Mozart’s music and show Morris’ power to be cleverly bold.
The performers of Mozart Dances also deserve credit for the success of the evening. Morris has been able to imprint a distinctive style on his dancers. They dance with precision, clarity and ease. They look fresh and sincere, and project an image of enjoyment. They are always aware of the music, which they gladly accept not as an irritating presence or a commanding force to which they have to submit but as a friendly fellow traveller. On the performance at the Teatro Real, these musical dancers enhanced the extraordinary interpretation of Mozart’s pieces by pianists Emanuel Ax and Yoko Nozaki, who played with clarity, vivacity, and joy.
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