Dallas — They have ordinary bodies, wear ordinary dress and perform ordinary movement. And yet there was nothing ordinary about Mark Morris Dance Group when it appeared Saturday night at the Winspear Opera House. Mr. Morris borrows from everyday movement, a whiff of ballet, and a great deal of folk dance. The result is deceptively complex dance as fresh and delightful as a spring rain.
Adding to the pleasure was live music.
Two jaunty duets form a sandwich for a slow and pensive solo in Italian Concerto. Set to Bach’s Italian Concerto in F Major, the dance begins with Lauren Grant and Aaron Loux in red and orange outfits making odd and disjointed gestures as they skirt around the stage, coming close and then going their separate ways. Their arms remained bent most of the time and their bodies pitched forward, backward or to the side.
Sam Black’s solo is riveting in its simplicity. Mr. Black stands still with his palm touching his chest as though mimicking a beating heart, before simply walking and then throwing an imaginary discus. He twists, stretches, holds a gesture for a long time, and gazes out at the audience. Every action is as clear as though etched on a bas-relief, indicating a man in contemplation and certainty.
The last section continues the lively mood of the first section as a new couple emerges, to be joined by the original couple and Mr. Black.
A Wooded Tree is a comic delight of 14 snappy vignettes set to the nutty songs and words of Ivor Cutler. Outfitted in zany garb, friends in a small Irish town mingle, part, stumble, hop, support and bunch together as they act out the silliness offered in gems like “Stick out Your Chest,” “Trouble, Trouble,” “Deedle, Deedle, I Pass,” and “Cocadoodledon’t.” While they take the words quite literally, there is so much madcap action that the effect is one of total spontaneity.
While poking fun at ballet may seem easy to pull off, it takes wit to hold interest. In The “Tamil Film Songs in Stereo” Pas de Deux, a bored dance master (Brian Lawson) sits idly reading a magazine until his pupil (Stacy Martorana) knocks timidly at an imaginary door. He lets her in with annoyance, and quickly demonstrates a sequence of plunging arabesques and brisk jumps. She catches on. But then the sequences get more complicated, and she stands frozen, mouthing a big “NO.” He persists, and as the music—a Bollywood selection that turns into a high-pitched, agitated voice—she tries again, struggling with increased despair.
The best was saved for last: Festival Dance, set to the lively music of Johann Hummel’s Piano Trio N. 5 in E Major, Op. 83. An exuberant work of sharp patterns and deft footwork, it has a rush and flow that never abates. Couples break away to form sets of four men and four women with a separate pair moving in and out of their ranks. Despite the speed, each step and turn is so clearly defined that the eye had no trouble taking it all in. Mr. Morris has mixed Baroque complexity with unbridled energy, and the result is a delightful dance.
» Margaret Putnam has been writing about dance since 1980, with works published by D Magazine, The Dallas Observer, The Dallas Times Herald, The Dallas Morning News, The New York Times, Playbill, Stagebill, Pointe Magazine and Dance Magazine.