Music as dramaturgy for dance

Sophia Preston

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    Mark Morris doesn’t use a dramaturg; he doesn’t need to, because he works so closely with complete music scores with their own pre-set and sophisticated structures. He also does his own research into the origins, associations and external references brought by the music. For example, in Grand Duo (1993) Morris employs both internal structures and external associations of Harrison’s Grand Duo for Violin and Piano to construct a dramaturgy that is at once intriguing (because ambiguous) and satisfyingly coherent. Akram Khan has worked with a dramaturg for all but one of the contemporary dance pieces he has made in the last six years. However, the majority of reviews of his latest work Vertical Road (2010) were in agreement that the powerful and evocative choreography was rendered unclear by an incoherent structure. Mackrell (2010 n.p.) went so far as to say: “the credited dramaturg, hasn't been doing her job.” A comparison of Grand Duo and Vertical Road reveals certain similarities between the two works, including at times an exact matching of dance and music reminiscent of Khan’s other professional dance form, Kathak. There are also a number of differences, however, including that Harrison’s music was an existing concert work whereas Sawhney’s score was written in collaboration with Khan and his creative team. My contention is that Sawhney’s music was too accommodating, that it requires a certain independence of structure and intention, perhaps an element of counterpoint and even “counter-pull”, for music to act as a support for the dramaturgy of dance.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)203-210
    JournalProceedings of the Society of Dance History Scholars 34th Annual International Conference Dance dramaturgy: catalyst, perspective and memory York University and University of Toronto, June 23-26, 2011
    Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 25 Jun 2011

    Bibliographical note

    Reference text: Music as dramaturgy for dance: Bibliography
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    Clapperton, Guy ‘Get ready for a mash-up’ in The Guardian Friday February 15th 2008 n.p.
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    Damsholt, Inger ‘Mark Morris, Mickey Mouse and choreo-musical polemic’ in The Opera Quarterly Vol.22 No.1 (2007) pp4-21
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    Khadarina, Oksana ‘Mark Moprris Dance Group: The Argument, Sang-Froid, Candleflowerdance, Grand Duo’ review in Ballet magazine March 2007
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    Morris, Mark Interview with Sophia Preston at the Mark Morris Dance Center Brooklyn N.Y. March 14th 2011 no pagination
    Preston, Sophia `Echoes and pre-echoes: the displacement of time in Mark Morris’s Dido and Aeneas' in Dancing in the Millennium: Proceedings Society of Dance History Scholars 23rd Annual Conference, Washington, July 19-23, 2000, University of California, Riverside, 2000 pp344-348
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    Turner, Cathy ‘Dramaturgy and the scene of recognition’ presented at Palatine workshop at Queen’s University, Belfast January 14th 2011 no pagination – also available at
    Turner, Cathy and Synne K. Behrndt dramaturgy and performance Palgrave Macmillan London and New York: 2008
    Winship, Lyndsey Mark Morris Dance Group: Grand Duo, I Don't Want to Love, V, Peccadillos review October 21, 2010 - Sadler's Wells, London no pagination


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