Mark Morris Dance Group 'The Look of Love' | Photo: Courtesy

From the moment I spotted the striking Marcy Harriell make her way into the orchestra pit at the Granada, I could tell that Mark Morris Dance Group’s The Look of Love: An Evening of Dance to the Music of Burt Bacharach was not going to be an ordinary dance show. As the lead singer in a performance that Morris himself described afterward as “a music show with dance, rather than a dance show with music,” the vocal stylings of Broadway star Harriell were the first of many happy surprises of the evening. 

With Ethan Iverson’s thoughtfully arranged score to an array of hit songs by the late composer Burt Bacharach and his lyricist Hal David bounced up against fabulous color blocked costumes by Isaac Mizrahi (think men and women in bright pink, orange, teal, chartreuse, lavender, and golden ensembles that Mary Tyler Moore would have loved), this was a joyful show from the always interesting and creative mind of Morris, who last collaborated with Iverson on Pepperland, featuring the music of the Beatles.

“I’m a bad dance promoter because sometimes I don’t like a dance show — I like a music show,” quipped the famed and hilariously dramatic choreographer when asked about his inspiration during an after-show talk back onstage. “I’m sorry. And of course, music is this big” — with an arms wide gesture — “and dance is this big” — arms smaller gesture — “so I chose something that I’m passionate about and love and adore, which is music. And because of that, I make up dances.”

This particular show, an evening-length work co-commissioned by UCSB Arts & Lectures, included witty and just flat-out fun interpretations to a song list that included “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again,” “What the World Needs Now,” “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head,” “Alfie,” “The Look of Love,” “Walk on By,” and “Do You Know the Way to San Jose,” all of which were surprisingly familiar to me, despite the fact that some were written before I was born. 

Additional surprises were the mime-style movement to the lyrics (a music theater style I enjoy), and the lack of solos by the dancers (those I kind of missed). All in all, this topically breezy but technically sophisticated show was entertaining without taking itself too seriously. In the words of Bacharach and David, it might just be what the world needs now.


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