The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Mark Morris Dance Group shines on KCPA stage

Performers+of+the+Mark+Morris+Dance+Group+cover+the+stage+in+blue+with+their+apparel.+The+dance+group+performed+at+the+Krannert+Center+for+the+Performing+Arts+stage+on+Friday+night.
Photo courtesy of Mark Morris
Performers of the Mark Morris Dance Group cover the stage in blue with their apparel. The dance group performed at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts stage on Friday night.

The lights dimmed at 7:30 p.m. on Friday as 14 dancers took the stage at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, bringing three pieces to fruition for Champaign-Urbana.

The Mark Morris Dance Group brings a unique and technical approach to modern dance, touring internationally. Deemed “the preeminent modern dance organization of our time” by Yo-Yo Ma, the group was founded by artistic director and choreographer Mark Morris in 1980.

Morris holds an impressive artistic resumé, and the crowd immediately rose to its feet when he took the stage in a ritzy pink scarf for final bows.

The first and third pieces, “Water” and “V,” featured a string quartet and a piano, while the second number was set to the song “Castor and Pollux,” which the dance was named for.

The audience held an array of people ready to see the MMDG. Shaugn McGuire, freshman in FAA, spoke highly of Morris prior to the show. 

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“The way he choreographs is emotional and upbeat,” McGuire said. “I think that is very interesting.”

McGuire came with a group of fellow University students for the class FAA 110: Exploring Arts and Creativity. The course engages with “visual arts, music, dance and theater experiences at Krannert Center and Krannert Art Museum,” according to the University catalog.

“It’s kind of a look into the theater aspects of the University,” McGuire said. “And just performing arts in general.”

Each of the three numbers from the performance was unique to one another, creating an eclectic set for its viewers.

“Water” was a playful piece, as the group’s dancers wore all black, and the background and lighting utilized color in the storytelling. 

Set to George Frideric Handel’s “Suite in F Major, HWV 348,” “Water” first premiered in 2021 in New York City.

The dance was very gestural and toyed with call and response in its movement. Its dancers often built off one another, creating an intricate visual experience for the audience.

The second piece, “Castor and Pollux,” first took the stage in 1980, the year the MMDG was founded. It consisted of eight dancers and dove heavily into dynamics within the music and movement.

Circular movement, both individually and collectively, formed the choreographic theme for the piece. 

The work was performed in two halves, with each half comprised of three duets followed by a sextet in which the three duets danced simultaneously.

A 20-minute intermission preceded the final number “V.” In the lobby between acts, Anna Merritt, a longtime community member, attested to her appreciation for Mark Morris; she accredited the KCPA as a reason for her staying for over 60 years.

“I used to sponsor them, and I think they’re just terrific,” Merritt said. “I’m never disappointed and I can certainly say I love them tonight.”

The third and final piece, “V,” was 33 minutes long and set to Robert Schumann’s “Quintet in E Flat Major for Piano and String, Op. 44.”

“V” was intimate, utilizing two different costumes to create both synchronicity and contrast throughout the work. It has been called “one of the few great works that modern dance has produced in a decade” by the New York Times.

Consisting of multiple parts conveyed through lighting changes, “V” used partnering as its main form of narrative. Morris played with costume and gender in creating his pairings.

The applause reverberated throughout the auditorium as the dancers took their final bows and the show came to an end.

Audience members poured out of the auditorium, many staying to catch a glimpse of the performers.

After the show, Sarah Rose Vickerman, junior in FAA, relayed that she had learned some of the partner work in a choreography lab this past week.

“It was really cool to see it on stage,” Vickerman said. “I got to have a one-on-one connection with the dancers that were performing.”

Morris was able to display expert choreography, and his dancers boasted impeccable technique and expressive performances on stage on their opening night.

Upon checking in with McGuire after the show, he thought it was spectacular. 

“I really appreciate the symmetry balance used,” he said. “I thought that was very beautiful.”

After a night filled with reminders of the beauty of live performance, the MMDG’s return to the KCPA  stage was striking, leaving a true impression on their audience.

“They never disappoint,” Merritt said.

 

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About the Contributor
Sam Gregerman, Senior Feature Reporter
Hi! My name is Sam, and I’m a sophomore majoring in English with a minor in creative writing. I was hired as a features writer in Fall 2023 after transferring to Illinois, and I began writing for buzz at the beginning of Spring 2024. I’m very excited to step into the role of Senior Feature Reporter and continue my contributions to The Daily Illini! If I’m not in the office, I’m probably next door at the Pi Phi house where I live, reading or watching reality TV. If you have any Champaign-Urbana events or topics you’d like covered, please send me an email using the button below! It is my goal to amplify community voices to the best of my ability.
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