Michael Clark has always been considered the punk leader of the British dance world and in his creations contemporary music is often the protagonist. This time around it is no exception as we experience dance with a spectacular sound track.

The performance begins with the apparent calm of Erik Satie, the outsider par excellence of classical music. The dancers, placed against a shimmering brightly coloured background, perform a series of solemn figures and frieze like statues to the music of Donnée Par Fête Des Chevaliers Normands En L ‘Honneur D’Une Jeune Demoiselle, their bodies sculpted by the super skinny optical white and black costumes. I am trying to revive the rhythms and movements in my mind and I recall a lot of symmetry and democracy on stage as all the dancers, 4 men and 4 women take centre stage in turns and unexpectedly conclude the first part of their performance with the musical anarchy of Satie’s Ogives.

The second part of the program is very much rock’n’roll, starting with the flared black leather and optical designs costumes, continuing with the dancers striking sensual and impudent poses to the music of Patti Smith’s debut album, Horses. Johnny’s Suicide is relived on stage while behind the dancers, on a giant screen measuring the full size of the back wall, Painting by Numbers, a work by Charles Atlas transposed for a theatre projection, hits us at supersonic speed, with numbers crazily running in front of our retinas, undecided whether to follow the human or the electronic movement on stage.

Although the title of the performance quotes Patti Smith, this work by Michael Clark was primarily created as a tribute and farewell to David Bowie. The dancers, in silver costumes, start dancing to the musical desperation of Blackstar while the choreographer himself, graces us with his intermittent and enigmatic presence on stage. He appears hypnotic, arms outstretched in a series of messianic figures. What follows is an unusual and mesmerizing triptych that starts with Bowie’s acting voice, taken from Diamond Dogs, a record that should have been his musical adaptation of George Orwell’s Big Brother. The beginning is a description of a nightmarish landscape in Future Legend, followed by Chant of the Ever Circling Skeletal Family. The audience is in complete sensory shock, the show is performed with an unprecedented energetic violence, after the apparent calm of Blackstar.

The final part is even more surprising and even more spectacular: Bowie’s Aladdin Sane is experimental, unique and his music literally lives on stage in the bodies and movements of Clark’s wonderful dancers, the lead Oxana Panchenko above all. The prima ballerina plays the crazed piano line and is always present on stage, while from time to time a dancer reprising the sax makes mad anarchic incursions while the powerful rhythm guitars enter laterally while strutting their stuff. The musical visualization is complete, magical, unexpected, overpowering, the dancers live the music and we live it by proxy thanks to them. At the end, I am just upset that the show did not last longer.

9 October 2016 – Michael Clark Dance Company… to a simple rock’n’roll… song – Barbican Theatre London


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