Squiggles and lines

By MARCIA B. SIEGEL  |  February 2, 2010

The rest of the men join him in relays of two, jumping and posing delicately, and on Mozart's emphatic cadences they stride manfully off, to the audience's delight. In the Andante, the men circle slowly, swooping together with joined hands and coy chains and wavy formations that look as if they could have been invented by Isadora Duncan. The women invade their circle then, in long filmy skirts, and there are exchanges of patterns and attitudes. Mozart's quasi-military music takes over and brings back the macho stomping exits.

This second of the three dances seems to me the most interesting in its evolving patterns and references, but the whole evening is full of visual pleasures. What is less compelling to me is Morris's movement itself, which is always dry and formal even when it soars into leaping or game-board fun, and which imitates the music's every note and ornamental device.

Where Alonzo King isolates individual dancers and small encounters with only lightly connected movement ideas, Morris's stress is always on the group, and its potential for suggesting conceptual depth through compositional structure. Both choreographers regard their company members as equally accomplished, even though certain dancers get to do solos. In King's work, the complexity and almost randomness of the movement evens things out. In Morris's work, the individual action is always submerged in that of the ensemble, and they're all a product of the music.

Morris dancers augment their modern-dance training with choreographed balleticisms; to me they always look earthbound and folkish. His dances are like ballets, without ballet's elegance. King dancers apply sculptural amplitude to their ballet training. They always look long and aristocratic. In his trackless choreography, they seem lost, displaced, like émigrés waiting for someone to give them serious work to do.

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