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Unlike the professional critics who may have been swayed by friendly feelings towards Wheeldon himself, as well as an understandable desire for something new to happen in the ballet world , my students were distinctly unimpressed by the Morphoses evening. But later, in class, they were much more forthcoming. They objected to the way the dances didn't go with the music or perhaps to the way the chosen music was unsuited to dance: they weren't sure which.
They liked certain of the poses the dancers took, but felt that in the end it was all posing, more gymnastics than dance. One student backhandedly praised the final piece, Mesmerics , by remarking that at least it was more interesting to watch the eight onstage cellos playing Philip Glass's music than it was to watch Wheeldon's dancers. Contrasting Mark Morris's ensemble to the Wheeldon group, my class noted that the former had obviously worked together for a long time, and as a result the Morris dancers were "harmonious," "precise," and "loose.
Instead of plot, there was pattern: they were all able to describe, in minute detail, the passage in Mozart Dances in which an open circle of dancers looped around itself, with the curved line passing under an arch of hands and losing a single dancer on each loop.
They may have been helped, in this close scrutiny of form, by hearing Morris's constant instructions called out to the dancers as they rehearsed. Towards the end of the discussion, one of my students said, "You know how Mark Morris told his dancers not to dance as if they had memorized the steps, but to surprise him, to make it feel new?
Well, the Wheeldon dancers looked as if they had memorized the steps.
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