Mark Morris Dance Group – Layla and Majnun – San Francisco

A friend said to me the other day, “People go to see Mark Morris for the music.” We were discussing the upcoming world premiere of Mark Morris Dance Group’s Layla and Majnun, and why she, a dancer, wouldn’t be seeing it. The truth is not as unequivocal as that – clearly, Morris’ choreography has as many adherents as his exquisite taste in music and musical collaborators. But judging by the applause at Zellerbach Hall, where Layla and Majnun opened on Friday, 30 September, people really were there for the music. At the curtain call, they clapped respectfully for the fifteen dancers, huzzahed for the Silk Road Ensemble and stood up and cheered for the two vocalists, Azerbaijani father-daughter mugham singers Alim Qasimov and Fargana Qasimova. It was a fair assessment of the 50-minute work, for which the music was exquisite but the slight choreography was tastefully decorative when not cloyingly frilly.