Eclectic: The Mark Morris Dance Group during one of their country numbers. *Photo supplied
Eclectic: The Mark Morris Dance Group during one of their country numbers. *Photo supplied

The Bermuda Festival has scored quite a coup this year in attracting to these shores world-renowned modern dance company, the Mark Morris Dance Group (MMDG). 

However high the expectations, they were easily met and exceeded.

Mark Morris, the legendary choreographer’s passionate commitment to live music is widely acknowledged and no performance by his company ever takes place without it. But less well known perhaps is the eclectic nature of his tastes and how widely varied the works to which he chooses to set pieces. For the Bermuda Festival performance alone the music employed went all the way from Baroque to country.

Morris brings a unique, idiosyncratic choreographic vision and interpretation to this music, employing a vivid and original movement lexis, thereby achieving an impressive elucidation of each composition. In essence, he succeeds in painting the music through animated, bodily form.

His company of dancers work seamlessly as one in this process, achieving a clarity of reading and executing each step with vibrant precision and exactitude on delivery. It might look deceptively easy, even casual, but don’t be fooled.

The performance at the Ruth Seaton James Centre this week opened with Italian Concerto set to J S Bach’s work of the same name, a gentle introduction to Morris’s work. The piece for five dancers, appearing in duet or solo, portrays the concerto’s three movements. The rich texture of dance expressed by these performers captures its varied musical themes with all coming together in the final movement where the choreographic structure neatly underpins the shape and form of the musical composition.

Engagement

The quality of musicianship alone is worthy of commendation, but even more so is pianist Colin Fowler’s engagement with the dancers. They seem organically connecting in bringing this whole artistic creation to life.

Moving after a brief pause from Bach to country and Western, Going Away Party is danced to songs by Bob Willis and his Texas Playboys. It was the only piece in the programme set to recorded music and, clearly, the sound quality and atmosphere of this one necessitates it.

Danced by three pairs and one lone male, the performers achieve an animated illustration of the numbers and a colourful account was delivered. There is some intricate threading and a mathematical precision demanded by this choreography no matter how light and frothy the piece might feel.

Excursions, a short work for six dancers set to Samuel Barber’s Excursions for the Piano, requires meticulousness in timing from the dancers and their pace was immaculate. What might seem such casual gestures and ­almost amorphous shapes were actually movements drawn with critical accuracy.

Grand Duo set to music by Lou Harrison for violin and piano made for a dramatic climax. Considered a Mark Morris signature piece, it was powerfully performed and powerfully lit with its tribal feel magnetically gripping.

Towering and tumultuous, it is a complex piece with the choreography ­embracing its widely varied moods from the introspective to the voluminous. In performance rigour and dynamism is achieved all round including that by violinist Georgy Valtchev and pianist Mr. Fowler of the MMDG Music Ensemble.

This was a multi-dimensional performance and one not to be missed. One can only hope that a company in such international demand may make a return visit.