Mark Morris Dance Group | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Mark Morris Dance Group

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Mark Morris lives and dies by his scores. If you don't like the music, you won't like the dance--that's how closely the two are tied. Appearing here for the first time since 2000, Morris's company performs his 2001 V, set to Schumann's Piano Quintet in E-flat. The music may be almost too familiar, but it provides a wide range of dynamics, from slow and dreamy to nearly violent, from methodical plodding to popping excitability. Morris's choreography follows the score, not necessarily note for note--his dancers pick up and drop instrumental lines as fluidly as swallows darting--but in its structure and moods. The cast is huge: two sets of seven dancers, one group in billowing blue blouses and the other in flowing white pants, a color scheme that made me think of clear skies and swimming. The source of the title is immediately apparent: seven figures stand silhouetted in a V. But the rest of the piece is up for grabs, as triangles, squares, and V formations coalesce and dissolve unpredictably but in perfect accord with the music, whether the dancing looks like floating clouds or hand-to-hand combat. Some people may not like that close correspondence, and some people may not like the music for Going Away Party: eight songs by Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys. I have to admit that when I watched the piece on tape recently I found Wills's country-western tunes annoyingly monotonous, all jaunty songs of sorrow too one-dimensional rhythmically for a lengthy suite. But in 1990, when I reviewed the work's premiere by the White Oak Dance Project, I called it rude, radical, and raunchy--all good words in my book. Since video can be so diminishing, I'd give this piece the benefit of the doubt. Also on the program is Serenade (2003), a solo Morris performs to music by late composer Lou Harrison, and A Spell (1993), set to music by John Wilson. Museum of Contemporary Art, theater, 220 E. Chicago, 312-297-4010. Opens Thursday, April 1, 6 PM, with a benefit performance that includes a buffet dinner. $100. Through April 4: Friday-Saturday, 7:30 PM; Sunday, 3 PM. $40.

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