Last year’s big contemporary ballet première at the International Festival was Mathew Bourne’s fun adaptation of Dorian Gray. This year Scotland’s own Michael Clark presents New Work.
I think it’s fair to say that Clark doesn’t have the same narrative flare as Bourne. Rather than follow one single story, New Work‘s unrelated pieces take inspiration from glam rock, the 1970s and Clark’s personal history.
I haven’t seen much contemporary dance, and to my inexperienced eyes the first piece ‘SWAMP’ seemed a little slow and occasionally bumpy. Several dancers broke long poses to plant a foot and start again. It was the first night, so this may have just been jitters, but the disjointed choreography can’t have helped. I suspect that perhaps as an uncommonly talented dancer Clark placed too high expectations on his company.
The second piece ‘come, been and gone’ contained both the best and worst moments of the evening. Sequences put to David Bowie were explosively rhythmic and exciting to watch, particularly towards the end from when ‘Aladdin Sane’ began. The solo set to The Velvet Underground’s ‘Heroin’ was embarrassingly literal. I don’t see a problem with Clark exploring his history of addiction through dance, but trussing up a ballerina in a nude body-suit punctured all over with hypodermic needles and getting her to roll about on the floor is another thing all together. Cringe worthy. I suppose at a stretch you could see her as a skewered Saint Sebastian, but the flopping about of the foam needles set my teeth on edge.
Aside from the heroin body-suit the costumes were quite nice; most had a Pam Hogg feel, although there were a few too many silly arm and leg-warmers tacked on in the first piece.
From where I was sitting the performance didn’t seem to go down too well the audience. I started a conversation at intermission with a nice couple next to me who wanted to know if they were missing something. They too had seen Dorian Gray last year and were a bit confused by the wobbles and the slowness of the first half.