With a firm grounding in modern dance, Mark Morris isn't above begging, borrowing, or stealing from the best the world has to offer; in his early years, he mined the traditions of flamenco, Israeli, Balkan, and Russian folk dance. It's perhaps from his study and incorporation of these dances that Morris gained his own conception of the music's central role in his dance concerts.
Morris' evening-length masterpiece L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato is hardly an exception, set to Handel's oratorio by the same name, which in turn borrows two of its three themes from the poetry of John Milton. Morris doesn't spare any details in his version of L'Allegro; the expansive work requires some two dozen dancers, a full orchestra, a choir, vocal soloists, and colorful costumes. Exploring an emotional range from melancholic despair to exuberant happiness, Morris and his Dance Group infuse motion with personified feelings, creating an epic symphony of movement in full complement to the concert of sound. The musical backdrop for Morris' company is provided by the expansive Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, which is joined by the UC Berkeley Chamber Chorus.
The Mark Morris Dance group performs L'AllegroWednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. at UC Berkeley's Zellerbach Hall, Bancroft Way at Telegraph, Berkeley. Tickets are $34-52; call (510) 642-9988. One hour before the Wednesday and Sunday performances, Sightlines offers a pre-concert talk with Nicholas McGegan, musical director of the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra; an hour before Saturday's show, UC musicologist Wye Allenbrook speaks. Lectures are free to ticket-holders.
On Monday, Morris steps off the dance stage to speak with Wendy Lesser about his work, as part of City Arts & Lectures series. The lecture begins at 8 p.m. at Herbst Theater, 401 Van Ness (at McAllister), S.F. Admission is $17; call 392-4400.