He's...a gifted raconteur, as he makes clear in a rollicking, uninhibited and refreshingly raw memoir, aptly titled Out Loud. Whizzing through these adventures with him feels a lot like being in the audience at one of his lively post-performance question-and-answer sessions, where Morris the everlasting bon vivant delights in holding the spotlight, typically with a wine glass in hand. If, in this book, co-author Wesley Stace had to do much crafting or smoothing out, it’s brilliantly concealed ... Out Loud takes us on a swift-paced ride through a fascinating life whose joys and setbacks are viewed with a sharp eye and often dry humor. Nothing is belabored. In his writing as in his dances, Morris has a light hand. But his memoir is about more than the making of a choreographer. It’s about the layering on of self-worth, and how a solid sense of who you are can equip you to survive all kinds of hell ... Morris’s tolerance of just about everything except affectation and bad taste is uplifting; you can’t help but marvel at his cool invincibility (or call it professionalism or grace). It’s a treat to visit Morris’s hippie-ish 1960s childhood, where we meet his parents, two older sisters, a rowdy cast of relatives and other eccentrics ... Morris seems to spare no detail as he sifts through a habit of belittling eruptions in rehearsals ... it’s good that he writes freely and openly. A memoir needs unguarded outbursts as well as wisdom. It’s all splendidly resolved. As Morris takes us inside his creative process and his adventures—and shows us the courage of an artist who perseveres—there’s a great deal of light in these pages.
Written by Morris and novelist/singer-songwriter Wesley Stace, the book takes you on a now riotous, now somber tour through Morris’s personal history and the history of his company, the Mark Morris Dance Group—interwoven, out of necessity, it seems, with the history of modern dance and an astute analysis of music through the ages ... It’s a monumental task, and one done with elan and candor: He’s pulling aside a curtain to let you see both the backstage to his dances and the workings of his genius mind ... Throughout the book, Morris’s eye for the telling detail astonishes, capturing the essence of a place or a person in a heartbeat ... There are short one-sentence paragraphs at the end of some sections that connote a sense of drama that isn’t there. But that’s a minor stylistic quibble. From the early pages of Out Loud, at Verla Flowers Dance Arts, in Seattle, to the closing ones, with Morris touring the expansive Mark Morris Dance Center, in Brooklyn, you derive a sense of hope—for the arts, for humanity.
Morris wrote the book with the help of the novelist Wesley Stace, but its voice is unmistakably his: direct, brash, flippant, charming, impenetrably self-assured. And funny. On just about every page, there’s an anecdote or remark to make you laugh ... At the same time, though, there is something odd about the tone, or odd for a memoir. Much of the prologue seems preoccupied with establishing what Morris isn’t interested in talking about or revealing ... It’s not that the book lacks candor...Yet amid all the dish and the this-is-how-it-works assertions, there’s not a lot of introspection or self-examination ... It’s still a good story ... the drama of this moment, like many in the book, doesn’t quite come alive ... At points of trauma — that junior-high bullying, the death of his father a few years later — [Morris] often switches from a just-the-facts account of what happened to a just-the-facts account of the dance he made about it, all trees and interesting branches and no forest ... Almost every Morris dance is a paragon of structural clarity and musical design. His memoir isn’t ... In short, the qualities that make Morris a great artist seem not to be fully engaged here. If you want a much more illuminating sense of his work and why it matters, as well as the crux of the biography, better told, with most of the best anecdotes, the book to read is still Joan Acocella’s 1993 Mark Morris. In Out Loud, there’s a sense that he’d rather be back in the studio, making dances.
Morris is frank, joyful, and, at times, provocative, but he never pontificates. As one of the most original and innovative choreographers in modern dance, he lets his work speak for itself. He relates his life story simply and honestly and never seems to take himself too seriously ... A fascinating memoir that will engage anyone interested in dance, movement, or the creative process.
... brash, candid, often caustic, and totally delightful ... longtime MMDG devotees could wish for less perfunctory portraits of, for instance, the invaluable Tina Fehlandt, whose contributions do stick in one’s mind. At least Guillermo Resto, an equally vivid presence in his work, gets more adequate treatment ... It’s not entirely appealing that Morris writes rather more chummily and lengthily about the boldface-name later collaborators he plainly (and rightly) considers his peers: Mikhail Baryshnikov, theater director Peter Sellars, composer Lou Harrison, Yo-Yo Ma. Still, nobody’s ever called him modest ... More attractively, he does provide an exhilarating horse’s-mouth view of the New York arts scene in the late 1970s and early ’80s—the city’s last hurrah, though Morris doesn’t say so, as a lodestar of artistic ferment ... Morris may disdain the pomposity of having a 'philosophy' of dance, but in some of the most stimulating passages of Out Loud, he’s happy to explain his aesthetic choices and values—which, after all, aren’t quite the same thing ... Although he’s basically uninterested in politics in the sense that most Americans understand the term—it’s almost a surprise when he confesses how bummed out he was by Trump’s election—he’s fully aware that his art has an innate political dimension.
Like his dance philosophy ('I make it up and you watch it'), here Morris, and novelist-musician Stace...are forthright, often funny, and unafraid to ruffle feathers, slotting gossipy tidbits next to soul-searching revelations and philosophical discussions on the nature of dance. Frequent personal photos add interest ... Morris bounces from grateful to arrogant and back again, exploring his childhood, his sexuality, the inside scoop on MMDG past and present, and dance and choreography in general ... A must for dance libraries, and why the hell not for most public libraries.
Morris devotes much of the book to taking pot shots at people who have wronged him ... Some of this opprobrium may be deserved, but the cumulative effect feels petty. Morris is equally generous with praise, however ... If only the book contained more dance and less score-settling. An uneven, sometimes bitter, yet always revealing portrait of one of America's most innovative artists.
Morris is an astute and witty storyteller, as he shares opinions on everything from popular music (it’s 'numbing') to houseguests ('If you want to stay with me, you have to sleep with me'). Fans of modern dance are sure to enjoy this colorful, often humorous memoir.