Curated Collections from the Mark Morris Dance Group Archive
Until we can share the joy of dance with you in theaters again, we continue to Dance On! (online). Dance On! Video Vault is a series of curated archival collections that provide a rare chance to rediscover dances from the earlier years of the Mark Morris Dance Group.
To date, Morris has choreographed 185 works, some of which have only been performed a handful of times, or for which we only have one or two performances on video. Through this series, we’re putting the spotlight on dances that aren’t as well known and are shown far less than some of the Dance Group’s most iconic dances.
Every month during our 40th Anniversary Digital Season for a limited time, we’re streaming a different collection of full-length works from our archives on demand. Our next Video Vault collection of the 40th Anniversary Season features four dances set to the music of composer, Johann Sebastian Bach. This collection, Dancing to Bach, will be available on demand through May 13.
This month’s Video Vault is dedicated to the music of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), one of the most celebrated Baroque-era composers and one of Morris’ favorites. Morris has choreographed seven works to music by Bach, three of which are featured in this collection. The first piece Morris created to Bach was Marble Halls (1985), set to Concerto for Two Harpsichords in C minor. The other two works Morris has selected are Jesu, Meine Freude (1993), performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival in 1995, and Italian Concerto (2007), at SUNY Purchase in 2007.
Music: Johann Sebastian Bach – Concerto for 2 Harpsichords in C minor, BWV 1060
Costume design: Katherine M. Patterson
Running time: 15 minutes
Premiere: March 14, 1985 with Batsheva Dance Company in Tel Aviv, Israel; May 9, 1985 with Mark Morris Dance Group at On the Boards in Seattle, Washington
Of the six works that Morris choreographed in 1985, Marble Halls is one of three that were set to a baroque music score – along with Handel Choruses (set to Handel’s Messiah and Hercules choruses) and One Charming Night (set to four songs by Henry Purcell). This dance was originally choreographed for the Batsheva Dance Company based in Tel Aviv. Morris staged it on his own company and premiered it at their Spring 1985 engagement at On the Boards in Seattle. While the work is sometimes performed to the arrangement for oboe and violin, this Video Vault performance, from Dance Theater Workshop in December 1985, is danced to a recording with two harpsichords, Morris’ preferred version. The title “Marble Halls” is in reference to an aria from the mid-19th century opera “The Bohemian Girl,” called “I Dreamt I Dwelt in Marble Halls.”
JESU, MEINE FREUDE
Music: Johann Sebastian Bach – Jesu, meine Freude, BWV 227
Lighting design: Michael Chybowski
Running time: 22 minutes
Premiere: June 8, 1993 at Dance Umbrella Boston. Commissioned in part by Dance Umbrella, Boston.
As Morris discusses in his introduction to this piece on Video Vault, Jesu, Meine Freude was created while the company was in residence at Dance Umbrella in Boston – one of several residencies the company has had with Dance Umbrella in the 90s. The Dance Group had been working with Emmanuel Music, a Boston-based organization (founded by conductor Craig Smith in 1970) dedicated to performing the complete cycle of sacred cantatas by Bach, of which there are more than 200. The premiere of Jesu, Meine Freude at the Emerson Majestic Theatre featured singers and musicians from Emmanuel Music, conducted by Maestro Smith. This work was last performed in 2014 at the Dresden Music Festival, with Morris conducting the Dresdner Kammerchor.
Music: Johann Sebastian Bach – Italian Concerto in F Major, BWV 971 (1735) I. Allegro II. Andante III. Presto
Lighting design: Paul Palazzo
Running time: 14 minutes
Premiere: January 17, 2007 at the James and Martha Duffy Performance Space, Mark Morris Dance Center (Brooklyn, NY)
The dance and score, written for solo piano, comprises three movements – Allegro, Andante, and Presto – with two dancers performing the first and third movements, and a soloist dancing the second movement. Morris performed that solo for the premiere performance run of the work; the only program for which he performed the piece. Of the 38 times that Italian Concerto has been performed since 2007, 13 of those performances have taken place outside of the United States, including Cambodia (during the Dance Group’s tour and residency in Southeast Asia with DanceMotion USA), Bermuda, Switzerland, and Italy.
Note: Because the recordings are fairly old, the definition isn’t what we’ve come to expect from video performances. We hope the vintage appeal more than makes up for the sometimes poor video quality.
Dance On! 40th Anniversary Fund
Join us in celebrating 40 years of outstanding performances and public programs by making a fully tax-deductible contribution. Your gift will be directed towards a stellar year of programming, providing a strong foundation for the future during this challenging economic time. Please consider a gift of support today. If you’ve already made a gift—thank you!