Mark Morris Celebrates Himself, and Rightly So

Miami's got a lot of catching up to do. It's been 15 years since the Mark Morris Dance Group last appeared here. That's a whole half-life for this esteemed company, which celebrates 30 seasons this year. So why is MMDG returning now?

"We only go where we're hired," deadpans artistic director and choreographer Mark Morris, while chatting with Cultist over the phone earlier this week. Thanks to the Sanford and Beatrice Ziff Dance Series at the Arsht Center, Miami is now be able to hire major dance companies like his more often.

With more than 150 works to his credit, Morris is a bad boy turned

contemporary dance institution. But he still has a wicked sense of humor

(his version of The Nutcracker is called The Hard Nut) and seemingly

limitless capacity to surprise (his Romeo and Juliet has a happy


Morris insists the surprise is on him. "I'm very

surprised at how people respond to everything," he claims. "I don't

decide what people laugh at."

He's not going for laughs with the

three dances slated for the Miami show, all created in the last decade:

he expresses spiritual yearning in the solemn "All Fours" (2003);

sprightly joy in "Festival Dance" (2011); and majesty in the masterwork V

(2001), set to Schumann's Quintet in E flat for Piano and Strings,

where two groups of seven dancers fall in and out of V patterns like

birds in flight.

"They're three gorgeous dances," Morris says.

That's because he's got a troupe of some of the most breathtaking

dancers in the world, each one capable of executing his whims from a

classical arabesque to a postmodern smack to the face.

"I don't

use shitty people," Morris explains. He demands excellence, not just for

it's own sake, but also because it makes the process of creation

easier: "The better someone is at something, the easier they are to work


Perhaps most remarkable, in these tough times for dance,

Morris has an ensemble of musicians. The choreographer is famous for

creating movement that seems to channel music, and MMDG has performed

exclusively with live music since 1996.

Why does he take on the extra expense?


doesn't everybody else?" he shoots back. "I'm the freak, because I use

live music? Why not use recorded music? Because it's bad."

And nothing Mark Morris does is bad. "My work is wonderful," he says. "I promise it will be an excellent show. Believe me."

For 30 years, MMDG has been proving him right.


Morris Dance Group performs at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday at the

Ziff Ballet Opera House, Adrienne Arsht Center (1300 Biscayne Blvd.,

Miami). Tickets cost $25 to $90. Call 305-949-6722 or visit

-- Celeste Fraser Delgado of

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