Review: Michael Clark Company in Swamp / Come, Been and Gone at Barbican

Performance: 28 Oct - 7 Nov 09
Reviewed by Libby Costello - Friday 30 October 2009

Michael Clark Company. 28-31 Oct, 3-7 Nov. Barbican. Dance Umbrella 09. Photo: Jake Walters

Reviewed: 29 October

Two works created 23 years apart made up the current Michael Clark Company programme – in London for this years Dance Umbrella and Barbican Bite:09 seasons as part of a European tour. Yet with its new costuming and edgy lighting *Swamp* _(1986) and _*Come, Been and Gone* (2009) could have been choreographed in the same breathe. Despite the revival of ’80’s choreography and the use of ’70’s music neitherwas outdated. On the contrary, they are still both ahead of their time due to Clark’s ability to marry great ballet with every conceivable genre of music.

*Swamp* could easily have been the main event of the evening, rather than the prelude to this years eagerly awaited work – a shame as it is arguably one of Clark’s finest works. Transformed with updated costuming, this choreography for eight dancers set to music by the Wire and Bruce Gilbert is a multitude of shapes and lines – each performed with exquisite elegance. The experimental punk sounds kept the dancers at a melodically slow pace, reflected in the lighting design by Charles Atlas with an unhurried bar of light moving across the backdrop. Swamp is deeply rooted in classical ballet vocabulary, although Clark’s trade mark movements are deeply embedded, showing that his signature style developed very early in his career.

*Come, Been and Gone* was the piece that most of the audience at the Barbican had come to see. Highly publicised since its premiere at the Edinburgh Festival in August and with the rehearsal process documented recently on the BBC2 show Michael Clark’s Heroes, this London premiere has been eagerly anticipated. Scandalously I did not know all the tracks on Clark’s homage to Iggy Pop, Velvet Underground and David Bowie playlist! But the infiltration of this style of rock into mainstream music meant most songs were recognisable.

Opening to Venus in Furs by the Velvet Underground Clark captured the image of the day through wild glam rock costumes. A sparking silver gimp suit, belly dance style face veils and the iconic silver trousers inspired by the low cut leggings of Iggy Pop all made an appearance as the glamorous, almost exotic side of rock was explored.

Come, Been and Gone had a gig style structure, complete with intermission in which the band took a break. This gave the movement a disjointed feel as each song almost appeared like stand alone choreographies, rather than as a whole work. Kate Coyne’s poignant solo to Velvet Underground’s Heroin seemed autobiographical for the choreographer. The movement encompassed Clark’s signature stylised backbends followed by defeated falls of self loathing. Coyne’s syringe decorated leotard ensured that we could not escape the reference to drugs which plagued this musical genre, and the choreographer’s life.

Although Clark is said to deliberated over the choreography for Bowie’s Hero, it was his female quartet to Jean Genie which really was the stand out section. With back and white striped suit jackets neatly placed over classical ballet leotards these four dancers, two en pointe, fused together ballet, contemporary and rock. With seemingly simple, yet undoubtedly intricate steps these four dancers encapsulated the feel of the evening.

Clark may never escape his label of the wild child of British ballet, but Come, Been and Gone was less about shock tactics and much more about proficient choreography to music of the people.

Continues at the Barbican until 7 Nov
Tour details: “www.michaelclarkcompany.com”:http://www.michaelclarkcompany.com

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