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Mostly Mozart: The Mark Morris Dance Group

Presented by Lincoln Center in the Mostly Mozart Festival at the New York State Theater, Lincoln Center Plaza (Ninth Avenue at West 63 Street), NYC, Aug. 14-17.

This year, the presenters of the 2002 Lincoln Center Mostly Mozart Festival chose to include the Mark Morris production of "L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato," his masterful and perhaps finest work, performed by the crowds of excellent dancers that comprise his company and set to Handel's magnificent "Concerto Grosso in G major."

There is a dazzling continuity of choreography in this lengthy piece—not a dead moment, never an isolated phrase that hasn't carefully emerged from the core of the one before, never a break in the tide of Morris' movement melded to Handel's score (played exquisitely by the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra with the soloists and chorus of the Dessoff Choirs). The words of John Milton, rearranged by Charles Jennens ("haste, fantastic toe, come forth to play") are the pillars on which Morris bases his many moods and images, but the dynamics of his choreography vividly intertwine with the score as if Morris and Handel had sat in the same room conferring mightily on the creative process. The spirited highs, the precariously held lunges on a bent front leg with the back leg extended in a marvelous line, and the men lifting the women aloft, supported high over their partner's heads in risk-taking flight, all add an unexpected breathlessness. And there is the willy-nilly Morris humor inserted as the choreography perpetually reshapes itself.

The women become woodland sprites at play, chasing each other, not sure of their exit, pulling a partner along in a facile display of camaraderie. Marjorie Folkman, a long-limbed woman with a boyish haircut that flops from side to side with the dips and rises in the music, leads the pack with a determined gait.

The set design of Adrianne Lobel—a series of 21 panels that fall, lift, or are layered—creates color nuances interwoven meticulously with each variation. The flow of this glorious piece is natural, dependable, and comfortable.

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