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Last updated: June 11, 2011 3:14 pm

Michael Clark, Tate Modern, London

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michael clarke company
 Familiar pattern: Michael Clark’s troupe at Tate Modern

Almost a decade ago, Merce Cunningham brought his company to Tate Modern and placed one of his Events in the tremendous space of the Turbine Hall. Beneath Olafur Eliasson’s existing Weather Project installation, a simulacrum of the sun, the dance echoed and blossomed in long, long perspectives, and even reflected above our heads in the looking-glass. We walked, we watched, we rejoiced.

Now British choreographer Michael Clark has made a work for only half of the same space, and with a “little ease” of bum-numbing seats lining his arena (your own cushions are essential if you go). The resultant display – fruit of last summer’s exercise in which a group of some 70 non-dancers learnt to perform what are always called “site-specific” sequences of movement – has become an evening-long affair, tiresomely entitled th, that lasts 90 minutes with an overly generous interval.

The dancefloor is decorated in bold patterns of black and white, with lighting by Charles Atlas that makes handsome effects in focusing on the movement. There arrives the legion of amateur dancers outfitted in hapless black tunics. They intermittently and, forgive the word, unitedly present those callisthenics and small phrases of activity that Clark has ordained for them. (Shades less of the massed dance choirs that attended the Nazi’s Olympic rally than of Mrs Bagot Stack and her Women’s League of Health and Beauty.) They gesture, form patterns. They leave, to return later.

The members of Clark’s troupe make more considerable appearances. Clad, initially, in brilliantly patterned black and white leotards, they go through those familiar choreographic motions that are Clark’s vocabulary, with characteristically straight arms, oddly blank in manner as they leap without much élan, bend pose, and exchange their first handsome outfits for increasingly lurid body coverings.

We crane our necks in a Wimbledon fashion to view islands of activity far or near, the performers seemingly bleached by the scattered dance. There is a brutish accompaniment owed to the over-amplified works of David Bowie. We are given perspectives and visual relationships by the spacing of the action, but I found it somehow arid and not a little portentous. Michael Clark made a momentary appearance, as if to sign the canvas. The event is, sad to say, not an event. 

 

Tate

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