Sat, Jun 14, 2014 - Page 12 News List

Mark Morris and other singular attractions

By Diane Baker  /  Staff reporter

Dancers of the Mark Morris Dance Group perform during a rehearsal at the National Theater in Taipei on Thursday afternoon. The US group is performing this weekend in Taipei and then travels to Greater Tainan to perform at the Tainan Arts Festival on Thursday and Friday.

Photo: Mandy Cheng, AFP

This is the kind of weekend that gives dance lovers nightmares about empty wallets. Too much choice, too little time. However, with careful budgeting of schedules and money, it is possible to see all three terrific groups that are performing in Taipei today and tomorrow.

First up is one of the US’ — and the world’s — top contemporary troupes, the Mark Morris Dance Group, which will be making its Taiwan premiere.

The promoter, the Management of New Arts, has brought the troupe and its music ensemble to Taiwan for performances in Taipei as well as at the Tainan Arts Festival in Greater Tainan. It is quite a coup, because the company is one of the best modern troupes in the world and Morris himself has helped redefine both ballet and contemporary dance as few of his contemporaries have. It is hard to understand why it has taken this long to get the company here.

It is hard to believe the Brooklyn, New York-based troupe is now 34 years old and its founder is 58; it seems just yesterday that one could not read about Morris without seeing the words “enfant terrible of dance” somewhere close by.

Morris, who performed with companies as diverse as Lars Lubovitch and Eliot Feld before branching off on his own, has blossomed into a renaissance man in recent decades. In addition to creating ballets for companies worldwide and working for many years with Mikhail Baryshnikov on the White Oak Project, he has added conducting to his list of achievements as well as directing and choreographing operas.

The company has brought two separate programs, A and B, each featuring three works, that give a broad overview of Morris’ style and technique. Program A (Eleven, Double and Grand Duo) was performed on Thursday and Friday in Taipei and will be seen again in Greater Tainan on Thursday night.

Tonight and tomorrow sees program B at the National Theater, to be repeated on Friday in Greater Tainan: All Fours, Crosswalk and Festival Dance.

All Fours, from 2003, is set to Bela Bartok’s String Quartet No. 4 in C Major, Op. 91. The almost brand-new group piece Crosswalk, which premiered last year with all its clashes and interminglings, is set to Carl Maria von Weber’s Grand Duo Concertant, for Clarinet and Piano, Op. 48, while Festival Dance, from 2011, set to Johann Nepomuk Hummel’s Piano Trio No. 5 in E Major, Op. 83.

There are still tickets left in several price categories for tonight and tomorrow’s show in Taipei and the two in Greater Tainan. They are pricey — but well worth it.

Meanwhile, upstairs in the National Theater complex, the Greater Tainan-based Scarecrow Contemporary Dance Company (稻草人現代舞蹈團) is performing its latest production, Singular (單‧身) in the Experimental Theater.

The company, which is marking its 25th anniversary this year, is going strong under the leadership of choreographer Luo Wen-jinn (羅文瑾), who became artistic director in 1998.

Scarecrow is known for producing thought-provoking works — by Luo and others — that continue to raise questions in the audience’s minds long after they have left the theater.

Luo’s own works are based on astute observations of modern society and life in Taiwan, often centered on the conflicts between individuals and family, solitude and urban life, the impact mental stress can have on the physical.

The company says the latest work was inspired by Paul Auster's book, The Invention of Solitude, as well as the tenuous space that exists between reality and nonentity and the eternal question of existence. Set on eight dancers, Singular is an exploration of eight stages of life as seen by a lonely woman, an outsider, an abandoned love child, a forlorn mother.

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