Mozart Dances

The Mark Morris Dance Group at the Mostly Mozart Festival on Wednesday, August 15.

I’ve never gotten used to the practice at dance recitals of applauding in the middle of a work—to acknowledge a string of pirouettes, for example, or a soloist’s exit from the stage. As a classically trained musician (I know it’s an insufferable phrase, but it’s applicable here), I was taught never to applaud until the very end of the piece and, even then, preferably not until the conductor has dropped his hands or the soloist released her instrument. In the music world, clapping between movements of a work is pitiably ignorant at best, and clapping mid-movement is unheard of.

Dance etiquette is different—I understand that—so I do my best to tolerate the outbursts of applause over the music of Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev and Stravinsky, however much they make me wince. I nearly cracked at Mozart Dances, though. I wanted to scream: I don’t care that you enjoyed that particular solo sequence, people. Emanuel Ax is playing a piano concerto! Shut the hell up!

Perhaps that seems extreme, but in some ways the clash of etiquette reflects Mark Morris’ charming but sometimes problematic union of movement and Mozart. Maybe Mozart just doesn’t truly lend himself to dance.