Monday, October 18, 2021

Modern Dance Is Back! Revered Mark Morris Dance Group celebrates with ode to Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper

Posted By on Mon, Oct 18, 2021 at 8:30 AM

Four years ago, Liverpool, England, the city that begat the Beatles, commissioned renowned choreographer Mark Morris to create a dance that would honor the 50th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, one of the Beatles' most influential albums.

Two years ago, the Mark Morris Dance Group was touring the U.S. with the piece, dubbed Pepperland.

A tribute to the Beatles, the 70-minute dance was a jazzy explosion of color, with innovative modern dance moves and plenty of music, including six Beatles songs. The Washington Post found the dance ravishing.

“Pepperland is an ecstatic and provocative Beatles tribute,’’ dance writer Sarah L. Kaufman declared, “and like no land you’ve been to before.”

Regrettably, that dancing Beatle land did not come to Tucson that year. Because in the midst of all the praise, Pepperland went dark. COVID had descended and the tour shut down. Tucson would have to wait.

Like every other choreographer, Morris spent much of the past year and a half stuck in the studio, but he used the time to experiment with new ways to dance.

Instead of leading some of the nation’s best modern dancers across America’s stages, he put them in dance videos, filmed in lonely New York apartments, with the performers dancing solo. The online videos were a hit, and bit by bit, the troupe ventured carefully back into the world. During the past month, the ever-innovative Morris debuted new works created during the pandemic time. The dancers performed them outdoors in different parts of the Big Apple.

Now, at long last, the troupe is on the road again, ready to go back on the stages. Lucky for the Old Pueblo, Tucson is one of their first stops. Mark Morris Dance Group will perform the dance at Centennial Hall, on Thursday, Oct. 21.

Morris is a must-see choreographer, and his dancers are always superb. If you go, you can watch Morris’s team dance to six Beatles songs: “Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band,” “With a Little Help From My Friends,” “A Day in the Life,” “When I'm Sixty-Four,” “Within You Without You” and “Penny Lane.” Musician Ethan Iverson arranged the Beatles songs and also provided jazz of his own. Music is always essential in a Morris work.

As the New York Time says, Mark Morris may be the “the most successful and influential choreographer alive, and indisputably the most musical.”


Modern dance from Mark Morris Dance Group, 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 21

Centennial Hall, on UA Campus

70 minutes, no intermission

Face coverings required, $45 to $80 general; $10 discount tickets for students in back rows; $40 discount tickets in back rows for UA faculty and staff, seniors 55 and up, and military. Tickets are available from Ticketmaster for a fee.