MOZART DANCES (Mark Morris Dance Group). At the MacMillan Theatre (80 Queen’s Park). Continues to June 8, Sat 8 pm, Sun 2 pm. $50-$70. Rating: NNNNN
Maybe choreographer Mark Morris was an architect in another life. How else to explain the marvellous construction of Mozart Dances, the towering work which helped kick off Luminato’s opening night and will surely go down as one of the fest’s highlights.
Morris has set individual dances to three pieces by the composer - Piano Concerto 11, K. 413, the Piano Sonata for Two Pianos, K. 448 and the most famous of the group, Piano Concerto 27, K. 595. Each one follows the three-movement classical sonata structure, and of course you can look at the program as a whole in a similar way.
Women dominate the first piece (titled, simply, Eleven); men the second (titled Double); and they come together, in exciting solos, duets and a climactic guys-against-girls face-off, for the third section (titled Twenty-seven).
Howard Hodgkin’s abstract backdrops - which resemble large smears of paint - change with each piece, and Martin Pakledinaz’s costumes, variations on black and white, add to the show’s effect, yet never distract.
As for the choreography, there’s a nod to court and folk dances of Mozart’s era, but always with a clever twist or fillip of modern charm. Some images repeat - linked circles, sudden drops to the floor, confident stompings to exit the stage - but none of the dance seems repetitive.
There’s an exuberance and sunniness throughout - all three Mozart works are in major keys, not surprisingly - but you can also read philosophy and psychology in the careful interweavings and groupings of bodies onstage. The movement is formal but never stiff, elegant but never precious.
And the dancers - among them Lauren Grant and Joe Bowie, who, respectively, set the bar high for the first and second pieces with strutting solos - attack their moves brilliantly. There’s no lingering over lovely moments. They’re moving too quickly for that to happen.
Morris insists on having live musicians perform with the dance, and that energy adds to the show’s excitement. Jane Glover gets a wide range of colour and dynamics from the Canadian Opera Company Orchestra, and Ursula Oppens makes an expressive and lyrical soloist, although in the difficult Sonata for Two Pianos there’s some problems of articulation with second pianist Amy Dissanyake.
The program continues today (Saturday June 7) and tomorrow (Sunday June 8). And there are two more Morris programs, All Fours/Violet Cavern (June 10-11) and Liebeslieder Waltzes/Grand Duo (June 14-15).