The performance by the Mark Morris Dance Group at Summerfest last week was like a loaf of artisan rye bread—dense, complex, chewy. The evening at the Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center was so packed with dance, music, and ideas, I would have like multiple viewings: once to focus on Morris’s choreography and brilliant movers, once for the world-renowned Summerfest musicians, and a third time to lose myself in the thrilling voice of countertenor John Holiday.
In last weekend’s “Balanchine Masterpieces” program, the music proved as thrilling as the dance—especially Mark Polesky at the piano. Polesky brought brightness and verve to the Stravinsky and richness to Hindemith’s changing moods. And that was on an electric keyboard! The dance was equally stunning, from the moment the Spreckels Theatre curtain rose on a chorus line of dancers in sparkly lipstick-red.
Some dances have such wildly inventive movement, and it flashes by so quickly, that the minute the piece ends, I want to see it again. That’s how I felt when I caught the premiere of “Odeon” by Ephrat Asherie Dance at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival last summer. I felt that way again when ArtPower presented “Odeon” at the Balboa Theatre last week.
Wonderfully ambitious, if over-reaching, David Roussève/REALITY’s “Halfway to Dawn” is a sort of dance-biography of jazz great Billy Strayhorn. Celebratory, abandoned dancing to Strayhorn tunes evokes the gaiety of African-American jazz clubs in the 1940s; but this complex piece also conveys an underlying loneliness.
John Malashock’s latest show, “Eye of the Beholder,” is a collection of 14 pieces, most of them duets. The whole thing runs for about an hour, which works out to about four minutes per dance—about the length of numbers on “So You Think You Can Dance.” The effect was like nibbling a lot of hors d’oeuvres at a cocktail party. It’s all tasty, but at the end, you’re still hungry for dinner.
“Eye of the Beholder” nonetheless offered some delectable bites: acrobatic partnering and well-drawn sketches exploring a range of emotions.
In a fascinating coincidence, La Jolla Music Society presented two dances this season by a noted choreographer using music from the 1960s, and the two couldn’t have been more different. Paul Taylor’s vapid “Changes,” shown here in January, used music by the Mamas and Papas (seriously?) and reduced the 60s to hippie chicks and bell-bottoms. “Pepperland,” in happy contrast, is a work of substance, a celebration of the youthful creativity and idealism of the 1960s … and a profound, important reflection on what became of those dreams.