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