Friday, June 06, 2008

Michael Clark is back in New York

What a simple statement: Michael Clark is back in New York. It's been about ten years since we've had the pleasure of seeing the Scottish choreographer here, and based on tonight's show at the Rose Theater, it's a real shame. (For some background on Clark, check out Gia Kourlas's preview in Time Out New York.)

The first piece of the evening, OO, was set to songs by Iggy Pop (the ploddingly grandiose "Mass Production"—I'd forgotten how great it is), Wire, Barbra Streisand and the Sex Pistols; the second, O, was set to Stravinsky's Apollo (the evening and tomorrow's program are collectively billed as "The Stravinsky Project"). I haven't seen Balanchine's iconic take of the latter work so I was free of baggage there (okay, ignorant!) and so I was completely hypnotized by the minimalist purity—having seen some Clark pieces way back in the 1980s, I guess I was expecting a rock & roll take, which is more ovious in OO. This, after all, is a guy so fearless that he's worked with the Fall.

The New York Times' reviewer, Claudia La Rocco, seemed put off what she referred to (repeatedly, and not in a good way) as the "wall of sound" in OO. The volume wasn't that high tonight, so either it's been lowered since the Wednesday performance she attended, or she doesn't appreciate the singular importance of volume in rock. Clark does, which is why it is an integral part of the piece, and is intricately linked to the elegant vibrancy of the choreography. In particular, I was stunned by how well he understood the clean precision of Wire's music, which he echoed in the movement he devised (and the costumes he co-designed, for that matter). On the other hand, I also heard that tonight's performance was more energetic than the one from Wednesday, so something to keep in mind.

One last thing: I love Clark's humor too, so, so punk. The last segment was introduced by an excerpt from Julian Temple's The Great Rock ’n’ Roll Swindle, in which a hilariously posh voice coach praises Malcolm McLaren's singing ability; this segued into the Sex Pistols' "Submission," in which Clark himself wandered among his dancers, dressed in a black suit. To me he was the McLaren figure, both part and apart of the action. This isn't surprising from an acolyte of Leigh Bowery; just check out Clark and Bowery primping for a night out.

If you're in NYC and free Saturday night—and even if you're not free, for that matter, just make the time—head up to the Rose to see Clark's troupe in action; the evening includes Mmm…, set to The Rite of Spring, and I Do, to Les Noces. So no loudness there, but I'd wager plenty of intensity matched with sheer visual beauty. Lord knows we can always use some of that. With luck, we won't have to wait another ten years to see him again here.

In the meantime, enjoy Iggy Pop's "Mass Production" (from his 1977 album The Idiot). And make sure you play it loud.

1 comment:

Judy said...

I wish I'd read this last week. I'm so sorry I missed him. I'm not a dance fan, but I adore Michael Clark. His stuff with the Fall was amazing. I'm an idiot.