In 1994, Clark tried a pared-down approach with O, a setting of Stravinsky's Apollon Musagète. In taking on Stravinsky, Clark also took on Balanchine, whose 1928 setting of this music is one of ballet's most famous statements of classicism.
This revised, completed revival of O is the first part of Clark's Stravinsky Project, a partnership with the Barbican that will see a revision of Clark's Rite of Spring and a new version of Les Noces. For the first time, Clark has live classical music - but not until the second half. O opens with numbers by Iggy Pop and Wire. Steven Scott's set is a line of flat doors, swinging open and shut. The dancers wear unitards by Leigh Bowery, and it is difficult to tell women from men.
Sinking to the floor, they twist up into shoulder stands, rotate arms in sockets, all movements slow and controlled. All this polished technique is rigidly self-contained; the dancers don't connect to each other, to the music, to the stage space.
Clark makes a cameo appearance, to whoops of joy from his loyal audience. He still has striking feet, but at 43 he has lost his angelic quality, that sense that he could not make an ugly movement. For the Apollo section, the leading role is now danced by Ashley Chen. He stands in a mirrored box, his stretches and poses reflected around him. But Chen looks best in the linking sections, giving the deep pliés a juicy boldness that stands out in otherwise arid choreography.
Clark avoids the Apollo story but does borrow some of the structure. He rarely shows us the Apollo figure dancing with three muses, but he follows Stravinsky's score in setting solos and duets. The loss of story doesn't matter, but Clark also loses a sense of progression. Every move is clearly articulated, but there's a lack of movement logic. If you have Balanchine's choreography in mind, the lack of larger coherence is going to grate.
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