This month, writer Dean Mayo Davies continues our series of special editorials from friends and colleagues celebrating the 30-year history of Michael Clark Company
Undoubtedly everyone’s first experience of the work of Michael Clark, however you may have come across it, is shared because of the way it slaps you fabulously across the face – and then carries on dancing. Shock or a jolt is commonly followed by a negative reaction. Here it’s reversed and – cue 2015 pop reference – you’re left like that emoji with the hearts for eyes.
You know you’ve stumbled upon something that speaks to you but you can’t figure out why. You’ve never been to the ballet, because it’s not for ‘us’. Then the realisation: Clark has made it ‘us’. And made it beyond ballet, with the ultimate soundtrack. His art may be its own animal, yet with the attitude, spectacular garb, twisted narrative, a gang you’re scared of and you want to hang out with, Clark is pure rock star.
It was as a teenager, through The Fall’s I Am Kurious, Oranj I found all this. The sleeve was different to other Fall releases – even if the Mark E. Smith school of jabbing consonants punctured the title. The record was the soundtrack to a dance piece by Clark, who was standing behind Smith in the photograph wearing a sequin-addled frock coat, the colour of which no word rhymes. (It drew on William of Orange, after all). Flipped over, Brix was sitting on a giant hamburger. The music was getaway car urgent and grandiose at the same time; William Blake hijacked and fed a drugged Wimpy to even greater British idiosyncrasy.
I never saw it at Sadler’s Wells, the band onstage with Clark in front of a Houses of Parliament backdrop. I was at primary school (boring). But I’ve seen the Company several times since, like all the restless, I moved to London rejecting an ‘ordinary life’.
I can’t shake the feeling of a show in Berlin, 2011 as part of a Raf Simons-curated event. I’d already met one of my heroes there, the artist Peter De Potter. Onstage Bowie’s “Heroes” played and the dancers shaped through that spinetingling wail. Then came the sudden realisation we were in the city that spawned that record – and Christiane F, where Bowie was magnetic. When the verse turned to Helden there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
ON MICHAEL CLARK (PORTRAIT OXANA PANCHENKO)
TEXT DEAN MAYO DAVIES
PHOTOGRAPHY JAKE WALTERS
MICHAEL CLARK COMPANY NEWSLETTER, APRIL 2015