Friends Welcome the Mark Morris Dance Group
February 22, 2019
Created by its namesake Artistic Director and Choreographer Mark Morris in 1980, the company has been accompanied on tours by its Music Ensemble since 1996. Over the years Mark Morris has created some 150 dance works. Critics have noted the special quality achieved by the Dance Group: “[Maestro Morris] has such a magical touch when it comes to creating beautiful dancing based on gorgeous music.” (MassLive). “Morris performs his works with live musical accompaniment, a rarity in concert dance programs. The dancer-musician synergy is an integral element of Morris’ choreographic aesthetic.” (Arts Journalist Lewis Wittington). No wonder The New York Times has called Morris “indisputably the most musical” choreographer alive.
The March 1 and 2 program, featuring three pieces, will include his new dance composition, The Trout, interpreting Classicist Franz Schubert’s very famous early 19 century chamber piece, The Quintet in A Major, informally known as the Trout Quintet. Schubert scored the piece for piano plus violin, viola, cello, and double bass in lieu of the usual quintet formation of piano plus string quartet (two violins, viola and cello). An article in the Encyclopedia Britannica notes: “The overall mood of the composition is light and bright, but the weighting of the instrumental texture toward the bass range gives the piece nuance and depth.” According to Wikipedia, “The Trout Quintet has a unique sonority among chamber works for piano and strings, due mainly to the piano part, which for substantial sections of the piece concentrates on the highest register of the instrument, with both hands playing the same melodic line an octave apart (having been freed to do so by the inclusion of both cello and bass in the ensemble).” It will be interesting to see and hear how the contemporary dance moves are informed by the classical strands of music, and how the double bass plays a part in it all.
The Mark Morris Dance Group work called Numerator sets contemporary dance against music by the early 20 century American composer Lou Harrison, who is noted for incorporating non-western music motifs into his own musical style. Audiences will experience innovation in the musical genre as well as the dance, as six dancers stage what appears to be the progression of mankind through the ages. The music is from Harrison’s Varied Trio for violin, piano, and percussion.
Little Britten is based on two works by noted British composer Benjamin Britten: Five Waltzes and Twelve Variations for Piano. Three dancers interpret the score. The variety in contemporary dance forms is matched by variations in instrumentation of a chamber ensemble style of music, where the additions of a low-key bass, rhythmic percussion, and stretches of high-soprano-like piano passages both blend into and emerge from the pleasing musical scores.
Artists in Conversation March Event
Mark Morris himself will be speaking to the Friends at this event. In addition to inviting Friends at the Contributor level and above, members of the Dance Partnership Council, a volunteer support group for the Mason School of Dance which also does fundraising for student scholarships, are also invited. School of Dance Director Susan Shields will introduce Morris. Referring to his role as the evening’s Artist in Conversation, Shields has noted that “Mark is very generous and has strong, clearly defined opinions about the state of our field. While he certainly will speak about the works he is presenting that evening, the audience will likely learn about the current dance climate and trends as well. And he is hilarious!”
This Artist in Conversation Event is being hosted by FCFA Board Member Kay Gilbert and Friends member Lynn Gramzow who are preparing festive decorations and planning a menu featuring fancy sweets. A member of the Friends Board is sponsoring the service of a sparkling wine to accompany the delectables. The Conversation will take place on the Dr. Linda Apple Monson Grand Tier.
A feast for the eyes, ears, and palate is planned for those attending the March 1 Mark Morris Dance Group Pre-Performance Discussion, performance, and post-performance Artist in Conversation. If you can’t make that date, Mark Morris Dance Group is performing the same program on Saturday, March 2 also at 8 p.m., albeit without the Artists in Conversation event!
Nearly all Great Performances at Mason begin with an informative Pre-Performance Discussion—a short introduction to the event being staged. Nancy Umanoff, the Executive Director of Mark Morris Dance Group, will be the speaker for the March 1 and 2 performances. Programming Director Godwin has noted that Umanoff “has been with the company since its inception and is a fountain of knowledge on the company’s history and future.” The discussion is held 45 minutes prior to the performance on the Dr. Linda Apple Monson Grand Tier (formerly Grand Tier III) of the Concert Hall.
Words of Welcome to the Mark Morris Dance Group
From College of Visual and Performing Arts Programming Manager Adrienne Bryant Godwin:
“As a representative of the Center for the Arts, I am thrilled to welcome back the inimitable Mark Morris Dance Group, who has been bringing intelligent and beautiful dance works to Fairfax for decades now. We are lucky to have such a long-standing relationship with this great company, who consider George Mason University their home away from home. On a personal note, this is a particularly special engagement for me as I worked with the company for 5 years as their Company Manager, traveling to Fairfax many times! Knowing these artists on a personal level is an honor, because they are as generous and compelling off stage as they are on stage.”
From School of Dance Director Susan Shields
“We always look forward to Mark Morris Dance Group visits—they inspire the students and the faculty. Several faculty members have performed with the Mark Morris Dance Group, so there is a special fondness for his beautiful company. Every time Mark's company visits, we receive Masterclasses, which we love. It is particularly fun if one of our alums teaches the Masterclass, as happened last time. Mark has hired three GMU graduates. We have danced several of his pieces over the years and likely will perform more.”
“Mark Morris masterclasses are always intricate and challenging. It makes watching the performance even more exciting when you have such insights about his work." Melanie Jerome BFA 2020. All 79 students who major in dance will absolutely be at the performance!”
Words of Acclaim from Mark Morris
"Everyone in my company loves visiting George Mason University. It's a place where we can perform for an audience that loves dance and a place where we can teach students who love to dance, what could be better than that? It's an inspiring environment... I hold George Mason University's dance program in high regard. The program is really doing something right." –Mark Morris
The Mark Morris Dance Group “Dance for PD” Master Class
The Mark Morris Dance Group will present a masterclass for members of the community dealing with the limitations in movement resulting from Parkinson’s Disease.