MARK MORRIS by Joan Acocella


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 Choreographer Mark Morris always elicits extreme reactions in audiences--but even those who hate, or are baffled by, his work can't deny that he's one of the most important creative figures in dance. Acocella (dance critic for New York's Daily News) has long championed Morris: here, by chronicling his early life and examining his works, she presents an extraordinary primer not only on how a choreographer develops but also on what dance can mean-- and how it works. She also presents an infinitely more human, appealing Morris than is usually portrayed. Acocella has interviewed Morris, as well as his family, friends, dancers--and critics--at length. She describes the choreographer's Seattle childhood: a loving family; excellent early dance training; intense involvement in an extraordinary folk dancing group (Koleda). The author makes clear that the genius was always in Morris--and that, happily, he grew up in an environment in which it flourished. Through Acocella's examination of how Morris uses music and narrative line, and of the critical reaction (often violent) to him, we learn an immense amount--and not just about Morris. Readers will have their eyes opened by Acocella's jargon-free analysis--of how inner conflict, for instance, can fuel choreographic development: ``Many first-class choreographers begin as superb dancers....But in certain respects this is an unlucky combination...the dancer-choreographer is likely to choose choreography over his or her dance, and then to resent the company....'' Acocella looks at length at Morris's trial by fire in 1988 as the choreographer in residence at Belgium's state opera house; what comes across strongly is the dancer's unwavering focus on his work. Acocella does both Morris and dance a great service here. By throwing a clear light on both the man and his gift, she endears Morris to us, allows us to respect him more, and gives us a greater understanding of both him and his art. (Forty-plus photos--not seen)

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-374-20295-8
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1993


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