Choreography for a toy truck
The Mark Morris company's penultimate US performance here in Boston last month moved easily from the ridiculous to the sublime. ``Deck of Cards'' showed Morris's penchant for choreographing to odd country-and-western-flavored songs. To the story of a truck driver set up for a jail sentence by a beautiful woman and three men in a Cadillac, a small, remote-controlled trailer truck maneuvered around the stage. Its little headlights seemed to search the half-darkness the way the singer searched for justice.
Wearing an orange dress, Morris danced to a moping song about a woman running all over town. His bushy, shoulder-length curls flew; his five o'clock shadow bristled; and he moved with pathos, contrition, and abandon. It was so touching and at the same time so odd it was disturbing. Finally, a man in undershorts and a military tunic frantically mimed an explanation of why a deck of cards was his Bible.
Balanchine once created a waltz for a baby elephant. Morris's choreography for a toy truck was a telling exposition of the spirit behind the song, just as his flounce/galumph in the dress went deeper than drag.
The other piece, ``Gloria,'' was a work of purity, even spirituality. Dealing with resurrection and redemption, it started with dancers slithering across the stage on their stomachs, progressed to upright movement, and climaxed with an ecstatic ensemble whirling and swooning. They landed on their backs with their arms straight out, making a cross shape, but the energy had been so pointedly aimed skyward they seemed to have fallen up. Modern dancers who bother to choreograph resurrection are rare; Morris's use of such a simple image singles him out, as much as his musicality does. These gifts portend a rich future for modern dance, wherever it occurs.