Live or Memorex?

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I hadn’t even read the ecstatic New York Times review of Mark Morris Dance Group’s Mostly Mozart Festival performance of L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato  yet when I called my Mom, and said I would cheerfully go right back and see it again.  Sitting in the theater, I was thrilled by the imaginative choreography and luminous dancing, and also by the fact that it was all “accompanied” by a topnotch, live performance of a piece by Handel.

That got me thinking about the difference it makes for dancers to perform with live or canned music   So, I called Connie Dinapoli, who spent seven years with the Paul Taylor Dance Company.  She said with live musicians, each performance is slightly different – for example, if the conductor has a cup of coffee before the show, or if there’s a substitute in the flute section, it could alter the tempos.  Each change, however subtle, makes for one-time-only moments that keep the dancers on their toes (metaphorically speaking, in modern dance).  But with recorded music, dancers know the accompaniment will always sound the same, so they have to reach into their own imagination to bring something artistically new and fresh to each performance. 

Of course, having live musicians in the pit is MUCH more expensive, which is why so many dance companies today use recordings.  When I asked Connie which she liked better, live or “Memorex,” she immediately said she preferred the give and take with live musicians.  As a performer myself, I’m with her.  How about you?