Collection: Info File: Week 2

Week 2: Michael Clark

by Libby Tsoi
Tags: barbican, choreography, michael clark, review, show

Michael Clark Company is made up of a core of extremely talented artists that altogether create astounding performances that challenge the mind and the eye. With Michael Clark as the leading choreographer, Stevie Stewart behind the costumes and Charles Atlas lighting the stage, you are never in for a boring night with Michael Clark Company. 

I had researched MCC (Michael Clarke Company) for a past project during my A level studies in which I was exploring choreography and the gestures the body makes to express emotion and feeling. I hadn't, however, seen a physical show before, and was very excited when I heard MCC was showing at the Barbican, and that it was relevant to the current FCP project.

I went in with an open mind, and once I got used to the style of the show, my mind was bursting with ideas and interpretations of what I was witnessing.




The first act started out very powerfully, with one female dancer descending from above on to the stage. Already I can sense that there is a strong feeling of androgyny going on; the female dancer has boy-like facial features, a shaved head, and is wearing a plain black tunic type dress, that a male dancer comes out wearing as well soon after she has landed on the stage.

At the end of the first act, I collected my thoughts and feelings that I felt throughout the show. I got a strong sense of fluidity and connection between not just the dancers, but also with the audience. All of the dances were connected in a subtle way, for example there was always a dancer remaining on stage until the next one arrived. 

The music was very eerie and quite slow. The voice was melodic and suited the movement very well. I was curious as to whether the same vocal artist would be used throughout the whole performance.

The background was very plain, consisting of just a large block colour or gradient. This complemented well with the plain black costumes the dancers adorned.

Clark himself came out for a small introductory piece, using hand gestures to communicate with the dancers. I was also interested at to whether he would appear again during the show.




The second act had a very distinct difference from the first. The general look of the dancers changed, mainly due to the fact that the costumes were body-tight, highlighting the natural male/female form, rather than being quite shapeless and disguising the form underneath loose fabric. They also had black backs running from neck to ankle, and colour at the front - I found this added an intriguing aspect to the performance as the dancers seems to appear and disappear when turned to face the black background. There was a sense of moving in and out of focus that was very interesting.

The music was very different from the first act as well. It was much more in the rock genre, and the dancers' moves reflected this. The moves were very quick and on beat, as opposed to the much more languid and flowing movement of the first act. Also contrary to the first act, there wasn't at all much interaction between the dancers. There was a lot more solo work which lead me to think that the piece was more about isolation and helplessness. The choreography involved a lot of canons (i.e. when the dancers do the same routine but a beat or two after each other so that there is a wave like effect) which gave me a sense of following in a crowd, or doing something just because society thinks you should, etc. There was the introduction of the use of the spotlight in this act which definitely enhanced the feeling of isolation throughout the piece. 

I haven't read up on what the true meaning was behind the piece, but I'd like to think the company would be pleased that the audience is interpreting it how they saw it.




The final act was probably the most interesting for me, visually and concept-wise. There were two parts to the final act, differentiated by the costume change. The dancers came on in the traditional orange-gradient costumes that I have seen before in photographs.

This whole act, I felt, was a look into Clark's mind and how he thinks. The dancers were interacting again, but in a more random way, not fluid like the first act. This, I took, was the formation of ideas, and their development inside Clark's mind. There was a sense of a kind of leading character in the first few pieces of choreography; one male dancer seemed to lead the others, i.e. he would do an alternate choreography when the rest were all in synchronisation. At one point, he was the only dancer on pointe which elevated him above the other dancers, which added on to my idea that he was perhaps of more importance than the rest.

This choreography had a lot of couple work in which careful balances were carried out (as pictured above). The caution and carefulness that went into these balancing shapes was amazing, and made me think about how one gets their mind around an idea, and how to form it properly you need to take care, as well as get the right balance of the right aspects.

The music was quite chaotic, with a few spoken words over it, which made me think of how Clark could perhaps hear his own voice inside his head and how it mixes with the chaos of ideas. The background changed from the first two acts and began to have words projected onto it. The words read things like 'why, who, what, i'm thinking of starting a zoo' etc. This adds to the chaos you may find inside Clark's mind, and this idea of a zoo is very relevant as a zoo is a form of pandemonium but is always full of life and wilderness. 

The costumes then changed - from the orange gradient to a black and white striped, geometric design with fringed sleeves. The music changes to a rocky tone, with the band featuring in the background, projected onto the screen, the lead singer's face painted assumedly by Leigh Bowery (an artist Clark collborates with frequently). The synthesised feel of the music and the slurred movements of the dancers lead me to believe that this new segment was perhaps the mind under the influence of substances, such as alcohol and drugs.

The screen also had black stripes running across it that corresponded with the stripes on the dancers' costumes. As the piece went on, I found that the stripes started to remind me of jail bars and the old outfits people used to wear when incarcerated. This could maybe symbolise how, through abusing substances, you're trapping yourself in your own mind.

The background screen lifted after a while so that a circular mirror could be used to light the dancers' bodies. I thought this was maybe a symbol of how your own reflection can be blinding, yet can also light your way. During the piece, the female dancers used stools with mirrors on the top, integrating them into the choreography. The way they used these props was extremely sexual and erotic. I thought that this could maybe be a demonstration of the sorts of situations you can find yourself in when your inhibitons are lowered.

The last scene of the whole show was very chaotic, but very synchronised. There was a lot of energy buzzing not just through the dancers, but also through the audience. I felt as if the show ended on a high, and I felt very inspired and yet thoughtful as I walked out of the Barbican, excited for my current project to do with choreography.



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