Reviews NYCOff-Broadway Published 22 March 2024

Review: The Look of Love at BAM

BAM Howard Gilman Opera House ⋄ March 20-23, 2024

An evening of dance that looks buoyantly toward spring. Loren Noveck reviews.

Loren Noveck

The Mark Morris company in The Look of Love. Photo: Julieta Cervantes

The pairing of choreographer Mark Morris and the pop songs of Burt Bacharach & Hal David makes total sense: Stylistically, their work can appear deceptively simple, but it’s built on a foundation of sturdy and resonant musicality. Both display a polished surface, with a gloss of confectionary sweetness; they can come close to the line between sweet and syrupy, but can also let the surface slip to show the sincere and wistful and sad side of the emotional spectrum. The Look of Love, Morris’s short evening of dance set to fourteen Bacharach songs (all but one with lyrics by David—and to my mind, that exception is the evening’s biggest miss), also uses the candy-colored design elements of frequent Morris collaborator Isaac Mizrahi to set the bright, poppy tone: color-block gender-neutral costumes that evoke Marimekko and the mod era, with equally bright folding chairs and round cushions as the only scenic pieces. The color palette is perfect for early spring, too.

It is true that, as with a good pop song, you don’t come to Mark Morris for drama or flash, but for steadily, even soothingly well-executed craft. He’s the least mopey and melodramatic of choreographers; even when working on themes of loss or grief, it’s done with a shrugging off of sorrow and a hint of a wink. And no one does the simplicity of joy better. “What the world needs now is love, sweet love,” goes one of Hal David’s more famous lines, and in Morris’s interpretation, it’s less romantic coupled love (though that’s in the number, which evokes ballroom dancing) than the shared love of a community.

Here, the movement does stray from time to time into an overly literal interpretation of David’s lyrics, but that’s always done with a wry twist and a dash of wit (unlike some of the more solemn and overwrought dancing to the lyrics one sees in the also recently opened Illinoise). And where Morris excels, as ever, is in the inherent lyricism that feels the music and uses the patterns of his dancers in an elegant counterpoint. His dance vocabulary is relentlessly unfussy; it’s all in angles and spirals and steps that weave into and against the music in complex ways. And I appreciate the restraint and economical quality of movement, particularly with the dancers’ arms: where Illinoise’s Justin Peck choreographs a series of hand twirls, Morris has a simple arc from the shoulder. It’s elegant, and all the more effective for its simplicity.

The Look of Love is almost entirely ensemble work—there’s not a virtuosic solo on the program, and while a few sections of individual songs feature a moment of duet or triad, for the most part, the entire company appears in every number. (I found myself particularly drawn to Courtney Lopes and Brandon Randolph, but the standard is consistent and high.)

Ethan Iverson’s arrangements of the songs, sung by lead vocalist Marcy Harriell and backup vocalists Clinton Curtis and Blaire Reinhard, find just enough newness in the familiar standards to keep the music fresh, with little tricks like a teasing intro to “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” or a pickup on the almost waltzing rhythm in “Alfie.” (The only real misstep, to my mind, is “Beware of the Blob,” which is beautifully lit by Nicole Pierce and seems clever at first–but ends up feeling like a one-note joke shoehorned in to give Harriell a vocal break. The dancing there is a bit perfunctory.)

Short, sweet, punchy, and bright, The Look of Love is a feel-good evening of modern dance. Everyone—including the performers and Morris himself, who came out for a curtain call—seemed to leave with a smile on their face and a bounce in their step. I left BAM and stepped back into an annoyingly chilly evening, but inside it felt like spring.

Loren Noveck

Loren Noveck is a writer, editor, dramaturg, and recovering Off-Off-Broadway producer, who was for many years the literary manager of Six Figures Theatre Company. She has written for The Brooklyn Rail, The Brooklyn Paper, and NYTheater now, and currently writes occasionally for HowlRound and WIT Online. In her non-theatrical life, she works in book publishing.

Review: The Look of Love at BAM Show Info

Produced by Brooklyn Academy of Music and Mark Morris Dance Group

Directed by Mark Morris

Choreography by Mark Morris

Scenic Design Isaac Mizrahi

Lighting Design Nicole Pierce

Cast includes Dancers: Mica Bernas, Karlie Budge, Courtney Lopes, Taína Lyons, Matthew McLaughlin, Dallas McMurray, Brandon Randolph, Nicole Sabella, Billy Smith, Noah Vinson Music: Clinton Curtis, Jonathan Finlayson, Marcy Harriell, Ethan Iverson, Blaire Reinhard, Vinnie Sperrazza, Simón Willson

Original Music Burt Bacharach; lyrics by Hal David

Show Details & Tickets

Running Time 65 minutes


Enter your email address below to get an occasional email with Exeunt updates and featured articles.