Performing Arts: Dance
August 10, 2014
Music compels Mark Morris to make dances. His musical tastes are wide ranging but he demonstrates a particular fondness for Baroque music. For years a mainstay of the The Mostly Mozart Music Festival, Mark Morris delivered the New Yord premiere of Handel’s “Acis and Galatea.” A pastoral tale of two lovers, Acis and Galatea are torn asunder when the monster Polyphemus chops Acis down in a fit of jealousy. Devastated by Acis’ death, Galatea marshals her powers and transforms Acis into an everlasting fountain.

This version is arranged by Mozart some 45 years after Handel’s final publication of “Acis and Galatea” and includes an English libretto by John Gay, with Alexander Pope and John Hughes. Even though it’s sung in English, supertitles assist. Adrianne Lobel’s screens suggest glens and wooded alcoves that support the airy quality mirrored in the diaphanous Monet-mottled long full-skirted costumes by Isaac Mizrahi.Situated in the pit, the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Chorale ably conducted by Nicholas McGegan play while the dancers vocalists merge in choreographic formations on stage.

A brisk opening displays swiftly changing patterns of spins unfurling like little breezes. The movements enlarge the musical currents, every now again snapping into a break dance riff--contracting and expanding the chest against upraised knees. Dancers' arms dart in the air, or flow into a breast-stroke all the while traveling effortlessly in carefully calculated intertwing patterns—that none of the dancers collide is a testament to the company’s musicality and technical acuity.

In the first half, dancers collect into a lot of foursomes—even performing what looks like a campy nod to the famous “Dance of the Little Swans” from “Swan Lake.” After intermission, many of the groupings break into trios and a at one point, a "faux" Baroque male God/Warrior solo breaks out. However, one of the most memorable moments comes late in the ballet when Acis drops lifeless to the ground. Dancers encircle him and Galatea radiating a deep poignancy marked by utter simplicity.

Truly, the company looks wonderful, but watching Lauren Grant is a particular pleasure. She floats across the stage, never exposing preparations for jumps, turns or weightless, partnered lifts.

Expected to move and act while singing, this quartet of vocalists functions fairly well, particularly considering Morris’ choreographic demands integrating singers into the movement’s fabric. Happily, the bold baritone, Douglas Williams (Polyphemus) proves a natural mover and thoroughly convincing actor/singer. Additionally, the fiery red-haired tenor, Isaiah Bell (Damon) pops as an up-and-coming talent. They join tenor, Thomas Cooley (Acis) and the frisky soprano, Yulia Van Doren (Galatea) in making “Acis and Galatea” another hit for New York's Mostly Mozart Festival.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

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