AU REVOIR, BELGIUM! HELLO BOSTON: THE COURT JESTER OF DANCE RETURNS

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Earlier this year, the Mark Morris Dance Group completed a three-year stint in Brussels at the national opera house, known as the Monnaie. It was an ideal setup for the troupe: The Belgian government paid salaries with benefits for the dancers, provided ample rehearsal space and support staff, gave Morris control over the repertory and an orchestra to work with.

The only problem was the Belgians. The Monnaie's audience, used to the costumed extravaganzas of Morris's predecessor, Maurice Bejart, did not warm to the young American choreographer. Brussels critics practically hounded the troupe out of the country.

Undaunted, Morris and his dancers returned to New York, earning strong critical approval for their homecoming performances. In Boston, impresario Jeremy Alliger, the executive director of Dance Umbrella, provided a bigger welcome: a six-week residency that included a nonstop teaching schedule for the dancers, community outreach, school programs, and a choreographers' workshop, capped by a dozen performances. Boston was on the world dance map.

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The company returns to New York after its Boston engagement, just another dance troupe looking for funding and studio space. (Even someone of Morris's stature has to scramble to pay rents and salaries.) Dance lovers should be thankful to the Belgian government: Rarely does a performing troupe get the opportunity to hone its work to such tremendous effect as the Mark Morris Dance Group did in Brussels. Vive la danse!

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