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Subject: "Michael Clark" Archived thread - Read only
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Brendan McCarthymoderator

26-10-01, 02:08 PM (GMT)
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"Michael Clark"
   LAST EDITED ON 26-10-01 AT 04:38 PM (GMT)

Clement Crisp didn't hold back on Michael Clark this morning. He found his performances at Sadler's Wells this week "an occasion for tears" and "sad and grubby". To their credit, he and Ismene Brown have not, as other critics did, bowed to a misguided political correctness. Brown wrote "I believe in Clark's talent, but Rise is a thin little piece in an unhappily flimsy evening".

Contrast Crisp and Brown with the other critics. Debra Craine excused Clark's "devotion to steps and his talent for making them". For Judith Mackrell, "the mix of slutty eroticism, fierce linearity and nervy invention that is unique to Clark's choreography, sings with wonderful assurance in its newly uncluttered context". According to Luke Jennings, "the dancer on stage may be wearing a baby-doll nightie and a strap-on dildo, but she is bang on the beat and performing a perfect entrechat quatre".

I'm glad Crisp and Brown wrote as they did. While art is morally neutral, I think we do look to it for intimations of depth, or at the very least to reconfigure (even playfully) our view of ourselves. Michael Clark is a case of someone who has grievously misread his own talent, and has been encouraged in this misreading by an indulgent dance establishment. I don't believe that a "devotion to steps" is enough, or that it presages a vocation as a choreographer, any more than a way with words is indicative of a writer's gift.

I haven't been to Sadler's Wells this week (having been more than sated with Michael Clark's work at the Riverside and elsewhere in the 1980s), and I would have felt it wrong to sound off about a performance I hadn't seen until this morning's post arrived. I had ordered a copy from Dance Books of Richard Glasstone's Classical Ballet Terms, which has just been published. It is an absolute must-have and, unlike other such dictionaries, it is extensively illustrated. There on the cover in white tights and white leotard is Michael Clark demonstrating a chassť en avant. Although he is at the gate of middle age, his line in this and in the many other illustrations is impeccable, quite extraordinarily beautiful. See these pictures which powerfully evoke what might have been, and weep.

Richard Glasstone, Classical Ballet Steps, an illustrated dictionary, Dance Books, £10.00

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  Subject     Author     Message Date     ID  
  RE: Michael Clark Carly Gillies 26-10-01 1
     RE: Michael Clark patricia meja 26-10-01 2
         RE: Michael Clark Jonathan 27-10-01 3

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Carly Gillies

26-10-01, 03:35 PM (GMT)
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1. "RE: Michael Clark"
In response to message #0
   In almost every article or review of Michael Clark the word "beautiful" appears.
Even Clement Crisp mentions his "still-beautiful instep"
I've never seen Michael Clark. - Can someone tell me what it is or was about this guy that makes all the critics wax so lyrical ?

As to Brendan's point above. I've often thought that someone shouting "the emperor has no clothes!" should happen far more often. I'd have shouted it myself about White Oak recently if I'd had the guts.
- Problem is that in Michael Clark's case it was apparently often quite literally the case!

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patricia meja

26-10-01, 03:59 PM (GMT)
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2. "RE: Michael Clark"
In response to message #1
   i had the dubious experience of having seen a ballet by michael clark called 'drop your pearls and hog it, girl', performed by the then LFB2 in 1986-87. when the curtain rose on a stage decorated, among other things, with a television set, from which the sound for the ballet came, and when i saw dancers garbed in purposely laddered hose and many other such things, i remember having the feeling that it didn't matter what they did, since we were being presented with so many images that seemed designed simply to obscure it. anyone else see this?

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27-10-01, 03:10 AM (GMT)
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3. "RE: Michael Clark"
In response to message #2
   >Michael Clark is
>a case of someone who
>has grievously misread his own
>talent, and has been encouraged
>in this misreading by an
>indulgent dance establishment

I have grievous problems with this posting, and Clement Crisp's review.

How can you 'misread' your own talent? How dare anyone reduce a life to a 'text' to be read or misread? How presumptious and proprietorial to suggest that Michael Clark 'could do better' if he only knew how to 'read' himself.

I have a problem with Crisp's review because it is riddled with vaguely fetishistic, homoerotic images - ('one of nature's rebels', the 'Rimbaud of dance', 'child of his time', "still-beautiful insteps", 'impeccable clarity of feet and limbs', 'the astounding boy who flashed through...") and yet when it comes to the crunch, Crisp backs off: "There is film of Clark - back mercifully towards us - busily pleasuring himself".

Why 'mercifully'? Personally, I'd pay good money to see the front view. Feet are not my thing, nor is Rimbaud. Having met a few foot-fetishists in my time, I know that for them, feet might as well be genitalia, and vice versa.

I could be wrong, but I think that what Michael Clark is saying is, if you ever get over the physical beauty of ballet, if you can ever bypass your own desires and stop fetishising feet and bodies, you might just be able to see dance and what it means. The giant hand is saying, if you like, "critics, put your left hand in the fridge, then come back and judge my work".

Clement Crisp dismisses Michael's work as something "where crass dance and barbarous din were allied to aggressive costuming, urchin obscenity, and the feeling that here was a beautiful dancer deriding his own gifts so as to give maximum affront to a stuffy public, and provide youthful fans with a nose-thumbing at a fusty establishment."

Great. I love it. I loved it in the 1980s, and I love it even more now. As a student in the 80s who went on CND marches, and for whom the Theatre of the Absurd was already a subject for study,it seems extraodinary that those such as Clement are still writing, in the same Singing-Nun style as they did then. Long live Michael Clark, long may he "nose-thumb a fusty establishment".

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