Mark Morris’ ‘L’Allegro’: In the space of timelessness 

Mark Morris' 'L'Allegro'. Photo by Stephanie Berger.
Mark Morris' 'L'Allegro'. Photo by Stephanie Berger.

Brooklyn Academy of Music, Brooklyn, NY.
March 25, 2022.

Mark Morris choreographed L’Allegro il Penseroso ed il Moderato in 1988, in Brussels at age 32. Since then, it’s been performed internationally many times over. Recently, audiences gathered to view this revered work once again, this time at Brooklyn Academy of Music, where it had its original U.S. premiere. 

One would be apt to describe this work as a masterpiece. As a first-time viewer, it felt like it could have been made in 1988, 10 years ago or yesterday. The omnipresent humanity displayed throughout the entire nearly two hours anchors it firmly in the space of timelessness. 

Based on John Milton’s yoked poems, LAllegro and Il Penseroso (1645), and danced to the music of Handel (1740), the work spans the depth of human experience without feeling preachy. There is light. There is dark. There is in between. 

Watching this piece now, at the start of year three of Covid and against the backdrop of nearly unimaginable global strife gives it a striking poignancy. The interconnectivity of us all, the duality of us all, the joys we share and the struggles we endure – all woven together seamlessly, as if a dream. 

To watch this work is almost to lucid dream. Certainly, the audience is aware they’re sitting in a theater but before long find transport to an ethereal space where we don’t know exactly what we’re witnessing. But we do know what we feel. We feel everything. 

We feel the agony of the pandemic. We feel the joy and awe at the resilience of community. We feel sadness and anger of war. We feel hope of new ideas, and of lessons learned. 

For art to impact audiences, all the aspects must join each other. The lighting matters, the music matters, the set matters, the dancers matter – with equal weight. There were no stars present, although the unity of the collaboration shone bright. 

Despite the well-woven efforts of all who make live theater great, this work came from the mind of one man, and he certainly reveled in his applause. As the lush red curtain descended, his vision transitioned from reality to memory – or dream – for those left standing and clapping. 

By Emily Sarkissian of Dance Informa. 

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