ADG Gets Ready for Bedtime

A glimpse of the Mark Morris dance production is a vision of flowing skirts, fluttering with each whirl, jump and crawl, in perfect cadence. Today the Andover Dance Group will be accompanied by the voices of Andover’s Fidelio Society and various other student musical groups as they perform “Bedtime And Other Dances”. In 1992, Mark Morris choreographed “Bedtime” for his dance troupe, the Mark Morris Dance Group. Funding from the Bernard and Mildred Kayden Fund allowed the Andover Dance Group to bring Marjorie Folkman, a retired member of the Mark Morris Dance Group, to teach the piece to the Phillips Academy students. Morris’s collaboration with PA was the first time he had “loaned” one of his pieces to a high school. Morris said that he is very selective while lending out his pieces and said that while working with the Boston Ballet or San Francisco Ballet, he requires complete control of directing. While Marjorie Folkman taught most of Friday’s performance Morris did coach the dance group for a day. According to Judith Wombwell, Instructor in Dance, the Dance Department spent two years trying to find a time that Morris could come for one afternoon. Morris said, “I insist that everyone knows what is going on, that everyone knows each others’ parts, so that the performance overall can flow better.” After first choreographing when he was 15, Morris was certain that he would want to pursue a career with dance and choreography. After establishing his “modern” dance group in 1980, he was subsequently invited to take the position of Director of Dance at the national opera house of Belgium, according to the Company’s website. The Company then returned to the US and Morris began to choreograph larger productions, including projects with the San Francisco Ballet, Boston Ballet and the American Ballet Theater. He also worked with Yo-Yo Ma. After a day of working with the Andover Dance Group, Mikko Nissinen, the artistic director of the Boston Ballet said in a question and answer session with Morris, “Mark has a wonderful way of getting a dance group to go beyond just dance steps. He gets a group to really think about what is being performed.” A key element of Morris’s style, one that is clearly evident in “Bedtime,” is the almost literary aspect of each movement. Every gesture, step, leap, holds meaning, fitting perfectly with the storyline and music. Energy bursts through each leap in cohesive sporadic movements. Morris also likes having live music accompany his works. According to Erin Strong, chair of the Theater and Dance Department, the live music and dance collaboration is a first in Andover history. Wombwell wrote in an email, “The Mark Morris Dance Group always performs with live music – never taped, so it was important that we were able to demonstrate that we had both strong music and dance departments.” Morris said, “I choose to direct, and even exist, because of music that inspires me… when I choreograph, I try to use the movement of the phrases and music to mirror the movement of the dance.” Other participants in the Friday and Saturday’s performances agree that live music enriches the pieces. Christopher Walter, director of the Fidelio Society said, “to have live music is just that much more exciting and [it] adds a presence to performance of the dance.” In particular the music of the pieces besides Bedtime are all of a madrigal fashion. Madrigal is a style of music usually composed around the Renaissance that features several voices and occasionally instruments. Because madrigal music is lyrically focused and dramatic, Walter believed that the style meshed well in a dance setting. Walter said that with the framework of the music, consisting of “highly expressive and dramatic pieces,” Wombwell, Strong, and Chew, began to choreograph, using the knowledge that the music would be live and in madrigal style. Chew, the only student choreographer for the performances, maintained the level of energy in her choreography linking her piece to Morris’s in one aspect. Chew said, “The first section of my piece is a little energetic. The second section is almost like you’re seeing someone’s memories and it’s more intimate. The final section of the piece I choreographed is sort of a gathering, where everyone comes together.” The efforts of the choreographers were presented to the Andover Dance Group, who then rehearsed the show, leading to the performance coming Friday and Saturday night.