31 August, 2009

Festival Blogger review - Michael Clark Company: New work

Dancer: Simon Williams, Photo: Jake Walters

With the prestige of Clark’s choreography, his Scottish roots and his position as a driving force on the boundaries of contemporary dance, there were high expectations surrounding Michael Clark Company's performance at the Playhouse. I’d seen various pictures on websites and leaflets, of a male in skin-tight shiny silver leggings with a microphone trailing from his mouth, and it was difficult to miss the explosion of signs around the Playhouse interior reading “Warning: partial nudity and loud music”. Also surprising was the 1970s music filtering through the theatre before the curtain had even risen.

But once the performance started, with dancers moving mechanically across the stage in decidedly Star-Trek-style costume to the eerie electric soundtrack, the evidence of Michael Clark’s distinctive talent is irrefutable. Otherworldly and intriguing, dancers seem to move as one large organ, reflecting and coexisting together perfectly within the dark confinements of the stage, beams of light moving slowly along the backdrop. Bodies create beautiful and radical geometry which occasionally appears trance-like. However amongst the modernity of Clark’s choreography and ideas are classical steps gesturing at his background in Ballet (despite the overall performance having quite opposite direction to any form of classical dance). The inclusion of these classical positions and their clever contortion and unconventional twists brings an air of style and technicality to the visions onstage. Sadly this first act, edged with sci-fi and electricity and however mesmerising, does grow tedious – perhaps due to the more vibrant and shocking innovation that the advertising of the show suggests.

It is the second act that provides the true exhilaration and excitement that the audience was waiting for. Instantly, the show merges to one of bright colour and music such as David Bowie, Iggy Pop and The Velvet Underground and a definite comic presence adds to the enjoyment. Against a bright, blank colour background, the audience is absorbed by the vision of dancers in lively but simple costume walking inexplicably on and off stage, running in circles, stopping and returning the way they came. The erratic but synchronised dance is shaped by fluid, beautifully formed solos, one of which featuring a woman covered in syringes moving to the sounds of “Heroin” by Velvet Underground.

Tthe tribute to David Bowie is inexplicably moving, as dancers move collectively to the backdrop of the music video of “Heroes”. Also Michael Clark himself onstage in a strangely and contrastingly casual outfit, dances against a backdrop of three nude dancers facing away from the audience and comically “hip-bumping” to the music.

Michael Clark Company seems to destroy boundaries between genre, instead combining colour, ballet, modernism, punk-rock, and talent both in dancer and choreographer to provide true visual entertainment. Ironically, it is apparently a little less daring than past works; perhaps for the better, because in this performance it’s the sheer rebellious energy that ensures the audience’s delight.

Reviewer: Kyna Bowers

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