Feature: Michael Clark Company 01

Friday 7 April 2006

Michael Clark Company Michael Clark Company
Sadlers Wells 24 – 28 Oct. & touring.

The return of Michael Clark to London, after three years absence, lived up to its hype. ‘Fall’, the first half of the programme, is a revision of early works set to music by The Fall. Here we appreciate the characteristics to be seen later in the style of the British dance’s ‘enfant terrible’ – the provocative and colorful costumes from Leigh Bowery showing bare bottoms or breasts, loud rock music and twisted technical vocabulary from ballet and modern dance with references to everyone from Balanchine to Cunningham. And then there’s his distinctive punky and theatrical flavour so often absent in the classical scene.
‘Rise’ brings together Charles Atlas’s incisive lighting design and a piece of moveable sculpture from artist Sarah Lucas. The piece shows the
evolution this choreographer has taken. The dancers leap and jump frenetically in original and inventive steps that exude a feeling of childish joy which
invades the entire theatre. But although all the parts have quality the work never reaches another status beyond the level of a fine divertimento; the elements seem to be thrown together in an incongruous way. The issues of modernity and sex
(masturbation is a central theme in the piece) never manage to transcend.

‘The Rise’, the second act of Michael Clark’s new show, begins with the stage stripped bare, and the lights laid at its bottom.

Grand plié in second, the dancers holding lit fluorescent tubes chassé across the stage. “Beautiful ballet!” You begin to enjoy the precise lines and angles crafted by Clark and the myriad ways in which the tubes can penetrate through female bodies.

A video with a timecode showing a man facing the wall. Yes, he is trying to get a rise — three minutes, and he gets it. The women, each holding a plastic fist shaped for gripping, leap and turn, all along the perimeters of an invisible “7”. Look, the man is trying to get another rise. And he gets it in the 7th minute. You can hear liquid flowing in the music.

The crew pushes out a giant arm, also shaped to grip. Female dancers in pink, some with faked hairy legs, développé and promenade around the fist. Some even relevé in parallel inside the fist. Pushing hard against the floor, they rise as high as they can go. Then they bend forward and soften.

And the performance ends. Rise, rise, rise…Is there anything out there that is beyond an obsession with quick rises? Clark provokes us to ask ourselves.

Jane Wong

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