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Review: Looking for Love with Burt Bacharach and Finding a Prayer

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In most parts of the world, it is true that love – the sweeter the better – is the only thing that exists. too little. In “The Look of Love” by Mark Morris, set to music by Burt Bacharach with Ethan Iverson’s new arrangements, love is the fuel, the pursuit, the ultimate destination. There are hugs, there are outstretched arms – to say a little prayer for you, Morris style – and there is heartbreak. At certain moments, the bodies of the dancers fade, as if caught in a sigh.

THE work, consisting of 14 songs and a length of just over an hour, opened with the curtain lowered and an instrumental overture of Iverson’s “Alfie,” whose piano playing was delicate but still cut through the air, calming the energy of the crowd. When the curtain rose on “What the World Needs Now,” it seemed appropriate, setting the tone for a dance in which love is the source of choreographic expression.

But fully entering the world of “The Look of Love,” which debuted Wednesday at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, wasn’t always easy, especially at first when the movement echoed the lyrics so explicitly and with a so repeated that it was difficult to understand. anything to stick. The experience was like standing in the gentle waves of the ocean and watching them wash over your slowly sinking feet. Again. And even.

For all its beautiful moments and wonderful musicians, “Look of Love” didn’t seem complete enough to stand alone as an evening’s work. Morris does dances because of the music; the fact that the two are related is an integral part of his artistic aesthetic, but they have not always been on equal footing. In many cases, music dominated the movement, especially when Marcy Harriell, the wonderful Broadway singer and actress, was emerging from the pit. She gives Bacharach’s songs and Hal David’s lyrics a captivating modernity full of warmth and power.

But as the dance progressed, a certain softness prevailed, reinforced by the choreography’s smooth plies, shapely arms and knees gently bent into leg extensions. This helped focus the frame of Morris’s view of love, which was only occasionally saccharine. There were times when it was weird, too, for the better – the creepy comedy number set to music (by Bacharach and Mack David) for the 1958 sci-fi horror film, “The Blob” – and for the worst, like when Dallas McMurray lip-synced “Message to Michael” like he was a beatnik in a coffee shop run by Doris Day.

As for his look? Isaac Mizrahi’s costumes and set design are like an inextinguishable desire for hope. The dancers wear ensembles that burst into a sunny array of orange, pink, purple, red and yellow and glow under Nicole Pearce’s lighting, which saturates the stage with color. Folding chairs and cushions, moved by the dancers, constitute a malleable and DIY ensemble.

As the dance began to find its way, “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” was the first bright spot – obvious but gentle as the dancers jumped on stage like drops of water and held out their arms, palms facing up. high, to leave a trace. drizzle. (Along with Iverson, the musical ensemble, led by Colin Fowler, was a dynamic force and included Jonathan Finlayson on trumpet, Simón Willson on bass, Vinnie Sperrazza on drums, and Clinton Curtis and Blaire Reinhard on backing vocals.)

Flashes, like lightning, shattered the joviality and made them jump with fear. But throughout it all, Courtney Lopes, looking radiant and figure-hugging in a long orange dress, transformed into Gene Kelly as she performed a soft-shoe routine as if she were dancing in the rain. As the dancers gathered around her, she looked like a mermaid in a fountain.

While the others tried to hide from the rain, she lounged in it, with the kind of dancing joy that is fully identifiable with Morris – the way he can present the expected in unexpected ways. Driving training in “Do you know the way to San Jose?” » – with the round cushions as ruffles – it was a little too much. But “Walk on By,” a seemingly simple dance, amplified Bacharach’s driving rhythms and transformed the song into a story about life and how its converging paths contain countless choices.

The lively vines of “Always Something There to Remind Me” drew elegant patterns on the floor, while “The Look of Love” was full of gently turning elevators for Noah Vinson and Lopes, which showed off Morris’ elegant restraint. It was also a reminder that this dance is not about the gaze of lust; on the contrary, it is a kind of platonic love, with two twin beds.

When “I Say a Little Prayer” began, the dancers were slumped over, seemingly asleep, just before Harrietl sang the first line: “The moment I wake up.” Alas, it was the kind of overly rowdy moment that made My body sigh.

But when they came to life, you know, putting on makeup, they were at their free-spirited, communal best, slipping in playful phrases – positioning themselves from side to side while stiffly flapping their arms lightly behind their backs like adorable penguins – alongside ample, robust movement. They formed a circle, one of Morris’s most satisfying choreographic motifs, and created a sort of carousel as they passed from one dancer to the next.

Circles with outstretched arms and flexed hands pressed together returned, mirroring the motifs from earlier in the dance, just as another rendition of “Alfie” returned, this time with full orchestration. The dancers positioned themselves on chairs with decorative, curved arms which they then held out like offerings to absorb the troubles of the world. “Are we supposed to take more than we give” – as the unsung lyrics of “Alfie” go in this case – “or are we supposed to be kind?” More than capturing the look of love, this dance is a prayer, for and for love.

“The look of love”

Through March 23 at BAM Howard Gilman Opera House in Brooklyn; bam.org

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