Echoes and pre-echoes: the displacement of time in Mark Morris's "Dido and Aeneas"

Sophia Preston

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Detailed choreo-musical analysis of Mark Morris’s Dido and Aeneas reveals that Morris incorporates into the dance the same foreshadowing of events and presentiments of tragedy employed by Purcell in the music. The resultant structure becomes cyclical with pre-echoes of motifs and tonalities only becoming evident in the light of their later manifestation in the dance and opera. The combination of such challenges to a linear chronology results in a moving rendition of an archetypal, because apparently inevitable, tragedy. The choreo-musical analysis also articulates the way in which Morris has drawn on external associations in his choreography. It becomes apparent that as well as utilising a `knowing’, postmodern radical juxtaposition of his eclectic range of movement sources (Preston, 1998) Morris also matches different references to the different characteristics of his own double-role. Thus, as Dido, he performs gestures taken from classical dance forms while, as the Sorceress, he employs the movements of Disney’s Cruella de Vil. The points at which Dido `slips’ into movements from popular culture are those at which she is allowing herself to be deceived. The inevitability of Dido’s fate is reinforced through the timelessness engendered both by the anachronistic use of historical references and the cyclical nature of the dance and music structures.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)344-348
    JournalDancing in the Millennium: an International Conference: Proceedings
    Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - Oct 2000

    Bibliographical note

    Reference text: Acocella, Joan Mark Morris New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1993
    Mellers, Wilfrid `The Tragic Heroine and the Un-Hero' in Price, Curtis (ed) Purcell: Dido and Aeneas, an opera 1986 pp204 - 213
    Morris, Mark Dido and Aeneas Barbara Willis Sweete (dir), Rhombus media, 1994
    Preston, Sophia Iconography and intertextuality: the discreet charm of meaning Proceedings of the Society of Dance History Scholars, Oregon 1998 pp241-252
    Price, Curtis (ed) ‘Dido and Aeneas in Context’ in Price, C. (ed) Purcell: Dido and Aeneas, an opera London: Norton, 1986 pp3-41
    Savage, Roger ‘Producing Dido and Aeneas’ in Price, C (ed) Purcell: Dido and Aeneas an opera London: Norton, 1986 pp255-277
    Westrup, Jack 1986 ‘A flawed masterpiece’ in Price, C (ed) Purcell: Dido and Aeneas an opera London:Norton, 1986 pp115-125


    • Mark Morris
    • "Dido and Aeneas"
    • Dance and Music structures


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