Watching the Mark Morris Dance Group 15 years ago at MoMing Dance & Arts Center, I was blissfully aware that Morris was someone who would always have fun with his art, who would find the humor in even the most dignified classical music. But despite his campy, antic sensibility, there’s something endearingly naive and earnest about his approach. Consider his 1998 speech at the Midwest Arts Conference, in which he said that live performers who are doing their job–he mentioned seeing Janet Baker years ago at Carnegie Hall–are saying “I love you” to the audience. In the same speech he passionately defended the importance of live performance, which he feels is embattled: “Video is a lie. The compact disc is a lie. The Internet is a lie. Television is a lie….They fool us into thinking that they are…connecting us, right now, all together. But…strip the electronic gloss from your Trinitron and you realize you’re staring at the equivalent of crumbling parchment.” That same passion should inform the five pieces on Morris’s first program in Chicago since 1996 (when his company performed Dido and Aeneas): The Argument, a 1999 sextet set to Schumann music for cello and piano; Sang Froid, a work premiered in July that interprets nine Chopin piano pieces; the 1998 Dancing Honeymoon, set to 15 songs popularized in the 30s by Gertrude Lawrence and Jack Buchanan; the 1999 duet Silhouettes, set to a Richard Cumming piano solo; and a work for eight from 1984, My Party, with music by Jean Francaix. Thursday, October 12, at 6: a benefit for the museum that includes a champagne reception, the performance, and a postperformance buffet, in the theater of the Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago in Chicago; $250, $500 for preferred seating. Then Friday and Saturday at 8 and Sunday at 3 in the same place; $30, $24 for MCA members. (Related events include a postshow discussion with Morris Friday and a free roundtable for dance and music artists Saturday at 2 at the MCA; registration required by calling 312-397-4010.) Call 312-397-3830 for benefit tickets, 312-397-4010 for regular tickets and information.

–Laura Molzahn

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Marc Royce.