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Mark Morris: The man, the moves and the music

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Entertainment,Music,Emily Cary

The Mark Morris Dance Group, regarded as one of America's most prestigious dance organizations, returns to George Mason University for two evenings of the choreographer's imaginative programs.

Since founding his company in 1980, Morris has been at the forefront of dance in this country and abroad for his brilliant marriage of dance and live music. This time, his program features "The Office" set to music by Antonin Dvorak, "Festival Dance" to Johann Hummel's Piano Trio No. 5 and "Socrates" to music by Erik Satie.

"I choose the music for my dances because I love it," he said. "Music is meant to be played live and I'm the person who has been doing this from the beginning. The dance I call 'The Office' takes place in a waiting room. 'Festival Dance' is done by eight couples. Hummel's Piano Trio is a great piece of music, very virtuosic and Bohemian in the literal sense of the word. People not familiar with it quickly discover that it's a knock-down driving piece.

Onstage
The Mark Morris Dance Group
Where: George Mason University Center for the Performing Arts, 4400 University Drive, Fairfax
When: 8 p.m Friday and Saturday
Info: $23 to $46; 703-993-2787; 888-945-2468; cfa.gmu.edu

"My Mark Morris Music Ensemble is a roster of talented musicians I rely upon for every show. I'm using four musicians for the George Mason concert. 'Socrates' is danced to the piano and voice version of Erik Satie's oratorio 'Socrate' which I prefer."

The original oratorio was written for voice and orchestra with text for the three parts of Satie's work taken from works by Plato. The first segment, "A Portrait of Socrates," was inspired by the philosopher/writer's Symposium. Text for the second portion, "The Banks of the Ilissus," is from Phaedrus, while the text for the last section, "Death of Socrates," is taken from Phaedo. The New Yorker review of the debut performance at the Brooklyn Academy of Music lauds Morris' interpretation and his utilization of Satie's music to accompany the actions.

Morris made his mark early, wasting no time to become one of the world leaders in dance. Early in its existence, his company was the national dance company of Belgium from 1988 to 1991, when it returned to the U.S. As a choreographer, he has received commissions and created works for the San Francisco Ballet, the Joffrey Ballet, the Boston Ballet, the American Ballet Theatre, and others.

He has been equally involved in directing and choreographing such operas as "Salome," "The Death of Klinghoffer," "La nozze di Figaro" and "Orfeo ed Euridice" the latter a Metropolitan Opera revival in 2011 along with "Nixon in China" which was filmed and broadcast live.

"The dance department at George Mason University and I have a long relationship," Morris said. "A member of my current company studied there. When I recruit a new dancer, I look for someone who can dance great, will dance even better in time and is an interesting adult. I'm not trying to force audiences to like what I do, but to simply present a work and let it make an impact."

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