Inspired by the 1616 poem Song to Celia by British poet Ben Jonson, Mark Morris's Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes is a deceptively challenging work for 12 leading dancers set to 13 etudes for piano by Virgil Thomson. The ballet title's melody appears in the 'Tenor Lead' etude:
Drinke to me, onely, with thine eyes,
And I will pledge with mine;
Or leave a kisse but in the cup,
And Ile not looke for wine.
The thirst, that from the soule doth rise,
Doth aske a drinke divine:
But might I of Jove's Nectar sup,
I would not change for thine.
I sent thee, late, a rosie wreath,
Not so much honoring thee,
As giving it a hope, that there
It could not withered bee.
But thou thereon did'st onely breath,
And sent'st it back to mee:
Since when it growes, and smells, I sweare,
Not of it selfe, but thee.
Drink to Me was the third ballet Mark Morris choreographed for American Ballet Theatre in 1988 and was commissioned by Mikhail Baryshnikov. The original cast included stars Julio Bocca, Robert Hill, Susan Jaffe, Martine van Hamel, and Baryshnikov. The ballet creates an almost classroom quality to Thomson's etudes (that include studies of ragtime and tango); Santo Loquasto's all-white costumes suggest 1980s dance wear. Under artistic directorship of Julie Kent, Washington Ballet presents seven performances of Morris's ballet in a Contemporary Masters program that also includes Company B by Paul Taylor featuring the Andrews Sisters music and Duets celebrating Merce Cunningham's centennial.
Thomson's many honors and awards include the Pulitzer Prize, a Brandeis Award, the gold medal for music from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, the National Book Circle Award, the Kennedy Center Honors, the National Music Council Award, and 20 honorary doctorates.
Tickets: October 31 - November 4 2018, Harman Center for the Arts, Washington, DC