Review: Dancers superbly realize Clark’s innovative, if somewhat repetitive, choreography
Pittsburgh Dance Council introduced the work of iconoclastic English choreographer Michael Clark, performed by his company, on Nov. 1 for its second show of the season.
Clark won praise for the ways he’s incorporated punk culture into his eclectic vocabulary. His choice of music reflects his love of rock, particularly ’70s rock. The audience was warned Saturday night that the music would be very loud on the second half. It was, particularly the throbbing bass, but wasn’t a problem.
The show was in two acts, beginning with “Swamp,” an early triumph for the choreographer which he created in 1986 and is set to music by English punk rock band Wire and Bruce Gilbert.
“Swamp” opens energetically, displaying Clark’s characteristic combination of classical ballet vocabulary with freer movement styles. Most the piece is set to Gilbert’s “Do You Me? and I Did,” a slow-moving soundscape. The Michael Clark Company dancers’ poise and balance was tested by the choreography, which was clear and exposed, and felt like an oddly drawn-out dream. Clark’s vision was fully justified by his performers.
Act 2 was devoted to “come, been and gone,” which Clark first presented in 2009. It has reportedly been modified many times. The version performed at the Byham was set to music by Iggy Pop and David Bowie and lasted 35 minutes. There was one brief passage of partial nudity.
Male and female dancers wear similar costumes in “come, been and gone,” which has an androgynous feel, unsurprising for a piece dominated by Bowie’s music. There’s even a projected film clip of Bowie singing “Heroes.”
For all the energy in the movement there is little emotional connection in the piece. There is plenty of interest from moment to moment, and even some wit in a section labeled “Intermission.” (There was a real intermission between the acts.) The only prop in the entire show is a chair into which a dancer wraps himself.
The final section is the most appealing, in which the dancers performance with exuberance to “The Jean Genie” before an attractive green back wall.
Long before the end, the show felt repetitive, which is another way of say differences didn’t make much of a difference. But many people were cheered at the end and the dancers were outstanding.
Mark Kanny is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7877 or [email protected].