Mark Morris Dance Group in The Look of Love. Photo by Skye Schmidt.
Fun! Fun! Fun! (if only for a too-brief hour) best describes the opening night at the Kennedy Center where “The Look of Love,” (a Kennedy Center co-commission) made its East Coast debut. The hour-long show features music by Burt Bacharach, the Grammy-winning songwriter of the 1950s, 60s and ’70s.
What a celebration for Bacharach, lyricist Hal David, and Mark Morris who created this dance tribute for all to enjoy—and with which to quietly hum along. This is also the first big, evening-length dance Morris has created since his 2017 Beatles-inspired romp, “Pepperland,” which was performed at the Kennedy Center in 2019.
…’What the World Needs Now’ is more Mark Morris!…fabulous show…
Morris, now in his mid-sixties, established a school in Brooklyn in 2001 and no longer performs with the company on stage. He made a bow that only a dancer could do, bringing the audience to its feet seven times before we left the theater.
Alan M. Kriegsman, a brilliant dance critic and music aficionado, once told a group of wannabe dance reporters that in the future all dance styles would be blended. There would be a fusion from ballet to ballroom, flamenco to folk dance, and more.
Indeed, Mark Morris has blended these styles in the most inventive ways possible. Bacharach’s tunes are perfect for the Morris touch of playful antics, rushing towards each other and lifting a dancer high above the others. Morris never gushes about finding love or leaving a partner. He creates a walking sequence for Karlie Budge that simply says, “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again“” or a mime gesture of coughing/sneezing by Billy Smith in this song’s phrase, “What do you get when you kiss a guy?”
Fashion icon, Isaac Mizrahi, created the lollypop orange, lime, grape, and lemon costumes for the 10 dancers on stage and two mannequins on display in the Eisenhower Theatre lobby. Again, Morris has blended carefree movement with technical ballet skills, and these easy-to-move-in-pants, slitted dresses, and shorts allow the dancers to run, leap, hop, skip, and perform the craziest grapevine steps imaginable—all to syncopated rhythms in zigzag lines.
We caught our breaths in the quieter moments of “The Look of Love,” especially in “Don’t Make Me Over,” an anthem of today’s generation of dancers. Nicole Pearce’s lighting honed in on the somewhat sad, yet touching moment when Dallas McMurray seeks a loving partner to no avail. He is a beautiful dancer who best captures Mark Morris’ vision and passions as this writer remembers the choreographer from a 1990s performance at Merriweather Post Pavilion when he danced to hillbilly music and kicked a beer can past Mikhail Baryshnikov, both looking for love.
Are you mouthing the words of “I Say a Little Prayer” or “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” as you read this review? I am, and I joined an audience chorus of “Alfie” when the tinkling piano keys opened the program to Morris’ message, “What’s It All About?”
“The Look of Love” is mainly about dancing but also the music. Dressed in a couture black gown, Marcy Harriell entered center orchestra and sang Burt’s songs with her extraordinary vocal range and feel for the lyrics. She was joined by background vocalists, Clinton Curtis and Blaire Reinhard, and pianist Ethan Iverson who arranged the musical part of the program that surely will put a smile on 94-year-old Bacharach. We lost Hal David in 2012.
Morris is noted for the musicality of his dances, and this was most evident in the sections when the dancers performed to only the music. Martha Graham once told her dancers, “If you can say it with words, don’t bother to dance it.” The Mark Morris Dance Company didn’t need the lyrics to emphasize the musicality of the work. The accents of a kick or a fall to the ground captured every beat of the drums or blare of the trumpet (loved his playing).
To answer the burning question of “The Look of Love,” consider “What The World Needs Now” is more Mark Morris! There are just three more performances of this fabulous show—something we all need.
Running time: Sixty-five minutes without intermission.
“The Look of Love” by the Mark Morris Dance Group performs Friday October 28, 2022 at 8 p.m. and Saturday, Oct. 29 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, 2700 F St NW, Washington, DC 20566. For more information and tickets, call the Box Office: (202) 467-4600. Toll-Free:(800) 444-1324 or
Masks are optional in all Kennedy Center spaces for visitors and staff.
Launched as a partnership between Mark Morris Dance Group and the Brooklyn Parkinson Group, this program offers internationally acclaimed dance classes for people with Parkinson’s Disease in more than 250 communities and 24 countries. A sold-out class was taught Friday morning. To read more about it, click here.