Mark Morris brings back his iconic solo dance.
A young saddhu, a lone devotee, with nothing to his name but passion for the form of god he’s chosen to worship and the rag of a dhoti wrapped around his loins, crouches in a ball in dim golden light at the back of the stage. He slowly raises his head and shoulders, stands, and strikes a pose. Then another. The poses form a sequence. They’re reminiscent of figures in Indian temple sculpture, but not quite classical somehow. One arm is outstretched like an arrow; the hand on the other, palm outward, covers eyes that gaze up and away. Or his hands hang limply from his arms, bent like dog paws. Or, with both palms down and open toward the audience, his head bobbles on his neck, looking like something between an elegant Indian dance move and a camp imitation of a kitschy Eastern European tchotchke—you know, the one your mother brought back from Romania. His torso welcomes torque. His fingertips and palms are painted betel red. So are the outlines of his feet. A sitar whines, a tabla strikes, a raga singer with a plaintive voice wills the devotee to action.
Thus begins “O Rangasayee,” by Mark Morris, one of the great modern dance solos of the twentieth century. Morris made this work for himself as a young man early in 1984. In December that year, he performed it as part of a sensational program in BAM’s Lepercq Space, after which The New Yorker’s Arlene Croce anointed him the Next Great Thing and he exploded onto the scene. It’s not clear how the audience that night had found their way there—I knew someone who worked a restaurant kitchen with some company members—or what they were expecting—but had a meteor crashed through the ceiling and landed smack in the middle of the gymnasium-like space, smoking and spitting flames at the bleachers, it wouldn’t have been met with a greater sense of awe. Read More