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Mark Morris Dance Group’s “Pepperland” at Cal Performances
It has been 50 years since the release of the Beatles’s iconic album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. To celebrate this anniversary the renowned choreographer Mark Morris presented “Pepperland” at Cal Performances on the UC Berkeley Zellerbach Hall this past weekend September 28 to 30, 2018.
Morris, has already had 11 ballets commissioned by UC Berkeley through the 30 years of their artisic relationship. Berkeley feels like home for Morris as he usually takes up a brief residency on the campus for the performances and activities surrounding them.
Friday afternoon from 12 to 3 P.M. there was a free open house, “Come Play With Us In Pepperland”, at Zellerbach Hall where the four dance concerts took place through Sunday afternoon. The activities included a display of Pepperland memorabilia in the lobby, a photo booth, games and refreshments. The highlights were a “Pepperland” dance demonstration by members of the Mark Morris Dance Group and a talk with the choreographer Mark Morris and his composer for the work Ethan Iverson. There was also a live theremin demonstration. The theremin is the electronic instrument that makes spooky musical sounds heard in horror movies. On Saturday afternoon there was a class to teach movement sequences from “Pepperland”.
Mark Morris also curated a series of films that show the arts and innovation in the late 60s, the date of the “Sgt. Pepper”. He introduced two of the films, Michelangelo Antonioni’s “Blow-Up” (September 28) and Mel Brooks’ “The Producers” (September 30) at Pacific Film Archives at BAMPFA, the museum at UC Berkeley.
For the dance concerts the composer Iverson wrote music for a small live chamber ensemble in which he plays the piano and other musicians are at the harpsichord/organ, drums, soprano saxophone, theremin, trombone plus a vocalist Clinton Curtis. Morris always insists on having live music for his dance productions.
The one hour long show without intermission was filled with fun and bouncy dancers to the famous songs. At the beginning there is an introduction of the 13 dances who wore the bright costumes by designer Elizabeth Kurtzman. With a swath of cloth, a gesture and facial expression they replicated famous figures like Oscar Wilde, Marlene Dietrich, Albert Einstein, Marilyn Monroe and the four Beatles. Then they started dancing to the very familiar music of the Beatles.
There was much repletion in the movements and the music except when it delves into the Indian Raga mode that the Beatles so loved. The hour seemed a bit too long for the show. “Pepperland” is the beginning of this seasons fine programs in dance, music, theater and lectures at CAL Performances (calperformances.org)
More Mark Morris chosen movies are scheduled at BAMPFA. http://bampfa.org/program/mark-morris-presents-age-pepperland.