Michael Clark: All Three at Once, Barbican, London – review

Michael Clark and his dancers are returned to the Barbican with the two-part work he staged there last year, now embellished with an intermezzo set to rampagings by the Sex Pistols and Public Image Ltd – hence the title. Not, I would suggest, that these added tracks occasion any development to the piece. Its grand merits reside in an opening section, the dance accompanied (as when walking a dog) by the winsome vocalisings of Scritti Politti, which could accompany deodorant commercials on television in Hell. But – and what a but! – Clark has made dances to them which seem a confession of faith in the academic manner in which he was educated and trained.

Purity of line, the eloquence of ballet’s academic positions and means, to which every ballet dancer must submit – and, especially for Clark, the disciplines implicit in the teachings and daily class routines by the great teacher Enrico Cecchetti (which Clark knows in his body) – these seem to me the armature of a fascinating sequence of choreography in which he holds dance up to the light, sees how it is refracted as in a prism, and shows it to us with a quiet authority. Here is the classic language which he learned and honoured, avoided as a career and – implicitly – rejected, but which is in his bones and spirit, and ultimately informs everything (however wild and rebellious) he has done. His O – to Stravinsky’s Apollo, made a decade ago – was fascinating because of this.

I find this opening sequence of choreography potent in its austerities and in its understated eloquence and patternings, and it makes the rest of the evening seem somehow trumpery. The new and brutish interlude – I report that my companion, a devotee of the Sex Pistols, was admiring of it – seemed predictable stuff, while the closing tumult by Relaxed Muscle, with its tedious projections on a set, its tiny metal stools, its all-too-familiar Clark-clichés, was at times obvious.

But the first part is – almost, oh! almost – like Balanchine’s Apollo for our times, classicism renewed, with the superb, ultra-pure Julie Cunningham its Terpsichore.



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