Michael Clark Company

June 30, 2008

Michael Clark Company

Stravinsky Project, Program B

Rose Theater, Lincoln Center, NYC

June 4–7, 2008

The fact that Michael Clark didn’t choreograph the overture to the Rite of Spring speaks of his deep respect for Stravinsky’s score. Nijinsky made the same decision for his notorious premiere in 1913, but overtures are rare these days. Of the many interpretations I’ve seen in the past years, no choreographer has been brave enough to leave that section free of dancing.

Once the driving chords of the Augurs of Spring began, it was evident that this staging would take the viewer far from pagan Russia to a distant planet inhabited by bald-patched men and women in “pleather” skirts, an ensemble of black toilet-seat-collared dancers, a skull-bearing sage with a lace veil, an enormous marshmallow Gumby figure, “flower people” in crotch-less green tights over a standard leotard, and a Chosen One who ensures the return of Spring by performing a sort of extreme yoga in solitude. All of this occurs in a spotless white room in front of a hall of eight large revolving mirrors.

    Provocatively titled Mmm…, Clark’s organization of the events reflects a sophisticated understanding of the score, even further refined; the current production is a 2006 revision of his 1992 original. Paired with his 2007 version of Stravinsky’s Les Noces (aptly titled I Do), the two U.S. premieres formed Program B of Clark’s “Stravinsky Project,” which also includes an evening-length work set to Stravinsky’s Apollo and some shorter repertory pieces. The Chosen One is the first to hit the floor in part one, and she does many of the twists and turns in traditional yoga, such as fish or bridge pose. At other times the ensemble work evokes Balanchine; a long passage in part two has all of the winding around and hand-holding of his Concerto Barocco. Added to the mix are poses in parallel position, flexed feet and lots of slow forward bending. What’s often most striking is how still the choreography remains despite Stravinsky’s polyrhythmic phrases, played here on two pianos by Philip Moore and Andrew West.

    The bride in I Do emerges at the opening from a huge Matryoshka “nesting” doll at the corner of the stage, only to finish the evening dressed in a bizarre wedding gown draped over a large phallus, her face poking through a cut-out circle over a row of tiny white bows. Where Nijinska, in her original 1923 Les Noces, explored the creation of long horizontal lines and the distinct differences in movement of groups of men and women, not to mention the solemnity of the marriage ritual, Clark has made a diffuse traffic with too many exits and entrances. Hopefully he will re-examine his decisions as he did with his Rite, and clean the dance so one can see what he’s trying to convey.

(Photo: Melissa Clark, by Hugo Glendinning, courtesy Lincoln Center)