Michael Clark Company Stravinsky Project, Barbican, London
For reasons that are not quite clear a giant screen glides down from the flies and Igor Stravinsky appears – conducting. His avian face, all beak and glasses, his arms tic, baton swinging, like brittle wings - bold, in black and white. The Firebird is extinguished and the screen rises. And the audience applaud. And applaud some more.
I am not sure why the audience felt the need to applaud a film but throughout this evening, the final night of the season at London's Barbican, some members of the crowd got very very excited. They probably applauded the ice-cream sellers at the interval.
The last time I saw Michael Clark he was dancing to the Fall with the backside hanging out of his trousers. This programme is more about Clark the choreographer than the dancer though he does appear briefly, and memorably, dressed as a toilet bowl in the middle piece of this three part evening of works based on Stravinsky scores.
After Igor has been raised into the roof and the applause subsided the final piece began. I Do, based on Les Noces, starts with a woman climbing precariously out of giant Russian doll and being led "en pointes" to the back of the stage. The original story is that of a simple peasant wedding though it would seem Clark's interpretation is a little bleaker. The girl that climbs out of her doll is ultimately trapped in a preposterous wedding dress (based on a design by Yves Saint Laurent in 1965, see above) that echoes the shape of the doll and hints at a marriage in which she will perhaps have no more freedom than in her childhood days of playing with dolls.
As the work progressed some of the audience became more and more vocal. Individual dancers were applauded, spontaneous cheers erupted. For so polite an art form this audience interaction was bizarre yet somehow quite fitting. Clark's position as iconoclastic dance-punk can surely weather some happy heckling. At one point somebody stood up and shouted something indecipherable. It could almost have been a protest but I was sitting near the front and could see that this woman was overcome with joy. Or maybe she was just very drunk.
Kirk Lake is a writer, musician and filmmaker. His published books include Mickey The Mimic (2015) and The Last Night of the Leamington Licker (2018). His films include the feature films Piercing Brightness (2014) and The World We Knew (2020) and a number of award winning shorts.
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