Musco Center sets its sights on Mark Morris Dance Group’s ‘The Look of Love’
Renowned choreographer Mark Morris’ biggest inspiration, by far, is music.
“I am interested in music that is interesting, surprising and wonderful,” said Morris, who founded the New York-based Mark Morris Dance Group in 1980.
Morris remains the group’s artistic director, and wonderful music is at the center of his production “The Look of Love,” which comes to the Musco Center for the Arts in Orange for a one-night-only performance on Nov. 4. The first in the Maybelle Musco Contemporary Dance Series at the Musco,”The Look of Love” features the musical legacy of the late Burt Bacharach.
“He was a great, great brilliant composer, and whether people think they know his music or not, they do,” said Morris.
Bacharach, along with his longtime lyricist Hal David, had an immense impact on popular music as a composer, songwriter and pianist. Bacharach had more than 70 Top 40 hits, and over 1,000 artists recorded versions of his songs, from Dionne Warwick and Perry Como to Tom Jones and Dusty Springfield. Popular songs from the Bacharach songbook like “I Say a Little Prayer” and “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” are presented in “The Look of Love,” with new musical arrangements by Ethan Iverson and vocals by Broadway star Marcy Harriell, all performed live by the Mark Morris Dance Group’s Music Ensemble.
“Much of it is music that you’ll know, in arrangements that are new and unfamiliar and completely great,” said Morris. “And you’ve never seen this dance before.”
“The Look of Love” first premiered in October 2022 at Santa Monica’s BroadStage, and the late Bacharach, who died in early February of this year, praised the show and Morris.
“For many years, I’ve wanted to see my music reimagined in some kind of theatrical production, not just a jukebox musical formula of songs, but an original work with its own story and appeal,” Bacharach said. “I’ve found an ideal collaborator in Mark Morris, whose brilliant choreography and deep musicality give songs new meaning and dimension through movement. Like a great melody, his dances evoke an atmosphere and inspire feelings, and I think that’s just what the world needs now.”
The show’s creative team includes fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi, who has designed boldly colored costumes for the show’s dancers, and lighting design by Nicole Pearce. “The Look of Love” is a co-commissioned production more than a dozen organizations, a model that allows multiple groups to provide the financial resources to bring the large-scale production to the stage while uniting in sharing the work of MMDG. Commissioning partners include BroadStage, Brooklyn Academy of Music and the Jay and Susie Gogue Performing Arts Center at Auburn University in association with Arizona Arts Live, University of Arizona; Cal Performances, UC Berkeley; Tennessee Performing Arts Center; Marybelle and Sebastian P. Musco Center for the Arts; Moss Arts Center at Virginia Tech; Harriman-Jewell Series; Hopkins Center for the Arts, Dartmouth College; the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign; Modlin Center for the Arts at University of Richmond; UC Santa Barbara Arts & Lectures; and Virginia Arts Festival.
While the show is only performing at the Musco Center for one night, a schedule of accompanying public and private events will take place at Chapman University Nov. 1 through 7.
“We always do a lot of outreach when we are on tour and we will be doing that when we are in Orange,” said Morris. “There are a number of classes and Q&A’s and a film screening to involve the community.”
Besides dance instruction by company members for Chapman students throughout the week, events include an open panel discussion on the history of Mark Morris Dance Group with Morris and MMDG executive director Nancy Umanoff at 2:30 p.m on Nov. 2 and a dance class for high school students at Santa Ana’s Wooden Floor Dance School. Nov. 4’s performance will be followed by a Q&A with Morris and Iverson, and on Nov. 7 a public viewing of “Capturing Grace,” a documentary about the company’s Dance for Parkinson’s Disease, will screen at 2:30 p.m. followed by a Zoom discussion with Dance for Parkinson’s Disease founding teacher and program director David Leventhal.
Tickets for “The Look of Love” are available at muscocenter.org.
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