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The Look of Love (Mark Morris Dance Group)

An aim-to-please, but superficial, new work from a master choreographer.

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The Mark Morris Dance Group in a scene from Morris’ “The Look of Love” at the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House (Photo credit: Julieta Cervantes)

[avatar user=”Joel Benjamin” size=”96″ align=”left”] Joel Benjamin, Critic[/avatar]

Morris Morris and his Mark Morris Dance Group, whose home base is a stone’s throw from the Brooklyn Academy of Music, returned to BAM with his aim-to-please new work The Look of Love, a love letter to the songs of Burt Bacharach and Hal David given fresh new jazz-tinged arrangements by Ethan Iverson.

The Look of Love, set to a suite of fourteen songs, beginning with a haunting overture, an arrangement of “Alfie,” took Morris’ fourteen dancers through a rose-colored, but superficial, vision of romance, often taking David’s lyrics too literally.

Using just a couple of folding chairs—which were constantly rearranged—the company, dressed in simple, but colorful, costumes by Isaac Mizrahi, began the ballet with “What the World Needs Now,” where the dancers pretty much just introduced themselves, meandering prettily about the stage until they came to comic life in “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again” which was featured some cute mime that closely mirrored the song’s words.

Lead vocalist Marcy Harriell and the Mark Morris Dance Group in a scene from Morris’ “The Look of Love” at the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House (Photo credit: Julieta Cervantes)

During “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” they felt for raindrops. “Walk on By” started with the dancers trekking back and forth, passing each other without acknowledgment.  “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” was notable for its witty evocation of driving, the dancers never quite getting anywhere, but enjoying each other’s company.

Morris’ choreography for this work is his breeziest and most entertaining, going for easy, obvious reactions.  There were flirtations and partings. Dallas McMurray lip-synched “Message to Michael” watched eagerly by the others. Interwoven grapevine steps were the theme of “Always Something There to Remind Me,” as the dancers snaked about the stage.  “The Look of Love” was the sweetest bit, a flirtation between Noah Vinson and Courtney Lopes, softly entwining in low lifts and gliding steps.

The Look of Love was filled with Morris’ least complex choreography, relying on repetition, walking, running and soft leg extensions along with simple arm gestures.  Considering the sophistication and elegance of Iverson’s arrangements for the MMDG Music Ensemble, Morris, whose musicianship is his best feature, clearly decided to go for the obvious and easily digestible.  Nothing wrong with this approach, but it made The Look of Love appear less substantial than it really was.

Nicole Sabella, Karlie Budge and Billy Smith of the Mark Morris Dance Group in a scene from Morris’ “The Look of Love” at the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House (Photo credit: Julieta Cervantes)

Marcy Harriell was the lead vocalist.  Her warmth and virtuosity, backed by two fine singers, Clinton Curtis and Blaire Reinhard whose easy harmonizing added sensuality to Iverson’s arrangements.

Nicole Pearce’s terrific lighting provided mood when the choreography failed to and enhanced the look of Mizrahi’s genderless, spiritedly colorful costumes.

The Look of Love isn’t one of Morris’ best ballets.  It is a bauble that is entertaining, easy on the eye, not to mention, quite commercial and accessible.

The Look of Love (Mark Morris Dance Group)  (March 20-23, 2024)

Brooklyn Academy of Music

BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, 30 Lafayette Avenue, in Brooklyn

For tickets, call 718-636-4100 or visit http://www.BAM.org

Running time: 65 minutes without an intermission

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About Joel Benjamin (562 Articles)
JOEL BENJAMIN was a child performer on Broadway and danced with leading modern dance and ballet companies. Joel has been attending theater, ballet and opera performances ever since childhood, becoming quite opinionated over the years. He was the founder and artistic director of the American Chamber Ballet and subsequently was massage therapist to the stars before becoming a reviewer and memoirist. He is a member of the Outer Critics Circle.

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