DanceNorth WestReview

Michael Clark Company: to a simple rock’n’roll…song – The Lowry, Salford

Choreography: Michael Clark
Reviewer: Stephen M Hornby

A Michael Clark Company show comes with a set of expectations. Michael Clark was presented in the 80s as a Puckish, punkish dance star, but he was always equally a perfectionist of impeccable pedigree, as likely to working with Ballet Rambert as Leigh Bowery. Now in his 50s, and the holder a CBE, Clark has found a brilliant fusion of the seemingly contradictory impulses of rebellion and conservation, creating three superb and strongly contrasting piece into a simple rock’n’roll…song.

Act One is subtitled Satie Studs/Ogives Composite and marks the 150th anniversary of Erik Satie’s birth. Clark has used Satie’s work a number of times, and some of the choreography here is re-worked from other pieces to create a striking new work. The slow, stately rhythm of Satie’s Ogives creates a challenging frame into which Clark places the most exquisite technical display. The control and strength of the extraordinary pictures the dancers paint are mesmerising. The symphonic structure allows for a series of movement motifs to be united into a finale of the most complex beauty.

Act Two, Land, uses the songs of Patti Smith from Horses and is itself a stage adaptation of Painting By Numbers, a 2010 multi-channel video installation by Charles Atlas, the show’s lighting designer. Atlas has done excellent work, not just in this piece but throughout the show. Land features a swirling, twisting, spewing projection on the vast cyclorama of numbers in a typeface that is redolent of the early, integrated, pixelated green screens of 1970s desktop computers. The modernity of a big American city is conjured perfectly, with the swarms of numbers looking like commuters on a New York subway. Whereas Act One provides asexual geometric beauty, Land presents a seething, sweaty, leather bell-bottomed city full of danger and possibility.

The final act, my mother, my dog and CLOWNS! is a celebratory elegy to the passing of David Bowie. In dark silver skins, the dancers move against a completely black backdrop, side-lit by Atlas to beautiful effect, acknowledging the journey that Bowie himself spelt out in Black Star. While the enormity of this echoes, it is soon replaced by a phoenix, a Bowie medley of gold lycra clad joy, taking us from Future Legend via Family to Aladdin Sane.

These three distinct pieces offer a journey through the best of what Clark has to offer, perfectly executed precision, a visually stunning multi-media spectacle and his own personal farewell bidding to an icon. It is a triumph.

Reviewed 19 October 2016 | Image: Contributed

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One Comment

  1. Did I watch the same performance? I had no sense of the dancers giving an’exquisite technical display’ in Act I. I thought their dance showed a poverty of control and felt that the technical demands of the piece were beyond these dancers. In short, there was a lot of wobbling revealing a lack of inner core strength. Often it felt as if the dancers on the stage were performing the same movements (‘though the synchronisation was poor) but not with the same understanding or intent behind the movements. It seemed a hotch-potch from performers who were dancing as individuals trying to get through either a piece that was beyond them, or under-rehearsed, or that they just didn’t really like dancing.

    Act II was better, as was the latter part of Act III, but overall both my partner and I came away feeling it was the most disappointing dance performance we’ve see in the last 8 or 9 years. We’ve seen Michael Clark before and the last couple of times were far more rounded and polished performances with a real cutting edge feel to them. However, there were some really ‘stunning’ moments of choreography in the latter part of Act III, particularly in one of the female solo sections, but these were ‘moments’ that lasted a few seconds at best. Other than these, it felt as if there was little that was new or innovative. It was difficult to find any sort of thread holding the whole together – unless you count the hackneyed and stylised running around the stage or off into the wings. I’m sorry to say that I was disappointed and bored.

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