Intimate dance salon grows in Brooklyn

The Mark Morris Dance Group performs “Festival Dance” at Morris’ studio in Brooklyn through Sunday.

Mark Morris, whose roots are in folk dance, nurtures sprouts from those roots into some of the most pleasurable dances on the American scene; three new ones appear this week in his Brooklyn studio, to live classical music provided by his in-house ensemble.

Nominally a modern dance company, Morris’ troupe is ballet-trained. Though they dance barefoot, the performers — sturdy women and fluent, pliant men — offer us precise steps and powerful feelings to serious music, beginning with a startling suite of Irish and Scottish folk songs arranged by Beethoven.

“Petrichor,” Morris’ first composition for an all-female cast, sets eight women in motion to a Heitor Villa-Lobos string quartet. Wearing floaty baby-doll tops over gray trunks, they execute powerful, swivel-hipped crosses, reminiscent of fencers or even tango dancers.

“Festival Dance” features gals in circle skirts and guys in Henleys; their outfits might have come from the Eddie Bauer catalog, but their actions draw on all the resources of American dance, from reels to jitterbug, displaying a kaleidoscope of satisfying patterns.

To music by Austrian composer Johann Nepomuk Hummel (a student of Mozart’s), a dozen dancers turn the notion of a “hop” into a tour through two centuries of dance strategies. Lines form in the wings and barrel across the stage; moving in circles, men lift women and women steer men.


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