Mark Morris Dance Group - 25th Anniversary Tour

Theatre Royal, Newcastle, and touring

Photo from Grand Duo

Presenting five very different pieces in an hour and 25 minutes, the Mark Morris Dance Group absolutely thrilled the very mixed, although predominantly young, Newcastle audience which cheered the company to the rafters at the end of the evening.

The evening began with the short From Old Seville, danced to A Esa Mujer by Manuel Requiebros, and featuring the man Morris himself. It's a very funny piece and provided the perfect opening, enthusing the audience with its combination of humour, castanets and Spanish dance.

Then it was into lyrical mood with Somebody's Coming to See Me, built around the songs of Stephen Foster, including the evergreen Beautiful Dreamer. Movements and motifs flow seemlessly from dancer to dancer and group to group as the company works as an ensemble or in various combinations. There is a lyricism which reflects the mood of Foster's songs in both the movements themselves and the structure, and the audience is carried along so that the 25 minutes pass without our noticing and there was almost a collective sigh of contentment as the piece drew to its close.

What provided an additional delight was the live music from violin, cello, piano and a quartet of singers: alto and soprano, baritone and tenor. As one audience member remarked, we got a concert as well as dance.

The first half ended with Morris' latest piece Candleflowerdance, performed to Stravinsky's Prelude in A, played live. Yet again, a very different piece, with a greater angularity in the movement and a more abstract feel, appropriate, perhaps, to the neo-classical period of Stravinsky's work to which the Prelude belongs.

The "Tamil Film Songs in Stereo" Pas de Deux opened the second half, another of Morris' humorous pieces, set to contemporary Indian music, which gently prepared the audience for the magnificent Grand Duo (named after Lou Harrison's Grand Duo for Violin and Piano - played live - to which it is performed).

The opening is stunning: a combination of costume, lighting (all side and top, no front of house) and pose gives the impression of a crowded Assyrian bas-relief and, as the piece gets underway, the music drives it along with a breathtaking speed and energy which left the audience breathless and shouting for more.

All in all, a superb evening of dance which delighted the growing band of contemporary dance fans in Newcastle.

The Mark Morris Dance Group plays at the Theatre Royal on Tuesday 11th October, before going on to the Wales Millennium Centre (Cardiff), Sadler's Wells (London), Birmingham Hippodrome, The Lowry (Salford), Glasgow Theatre Royal, the Edinburgh Festival Theatre, the Snape Maltings Concert Hall, the Wycombe Swan and the New Vic (Woking), where the tour ends on 19th November.

Reviewer: Peter Lathan

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