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Come, Been and Gone, Playhouse, Edinburgh

A rebel's dance to the 70s sound

Zoë Anderson
Tuesday 01 September 2009 00:00 BST

Michael Clark's new dance Come, Been and Gone shows a rebel going back to his roots. Long before he rocketed out of the Royal Ballet School to stir headlines with the punk theatricality of his dances, Clark was inspired by David Bowie, Lou Reed and Iggy Pop. He's still fascinated: his latest work, which had its British premiere at the Edinburgh Festival, responds to this music with obvious delight.

If the music goes back to the 1970s, the dancing is a reminder of Clark's early training. His own dancing was famous for its angelic quality and a bright classical rigour. It's there in this choreography. There's nothing flabby or aimless about these dances: steps are taut with purpose and precision.

His dancers stalk on to music by the Velvet Underground, bodies stretched into angular poses. Stepping forward, they hold their backs arched, hipbones thrust forward, arms hanging down behind the body. They look watchful, alien and completely sure of themselves.

The costumes are by Clark and Bodymap's Stevie Stewart, a long-term collaborator. There are glam rock touches: low-waisted, shiny silver tights look like lamé trousers. Even when they're ugly, the costumes are bold and definite.

On this evidence, Bowie was Clark's main hero, getting most of the music. He even turns up on the backdrop. Film footage of Bowie singing is moved around behind the dancers. It doesn't quite work, though Clark's dancers manage to hold their own against Bowie's upstaging presence.

On a change of music, the dancers switch to exuberant walking dances. People stroll in from the wings; others trot across the stage. Some stride, some do a dancer's limp, stepping onto tiptoe with one foot. With their different paces and patterns, they're all on the beat.

For the Velvet Underground's "Heroin", Kate Coyne is stuck all over with syringes, her face wrapped in beige cloth. She follows the song's pulse, speeding up and flopping back. Coyne's dancing is beautifully articulated. Whether she stretches out or folds into twisted poses, there's nothing skimped or hurried.

The precision of these dances seems to reach right off stage. The dances to Bowie's "Heroes" often start in the wings. Dancers compose themselves, rise on tiptoe, and twist round. The care with footwork gives them a springy energy, while the poses are big and strong.

Clark makes one brief appearance, wearing a wig and a baggy garment like a loose Victorian bathing suit. He still wears a punk nappy pin in his ear. "Intermission" appears on the screen behind him: this is an interlude, his dancing mostly walking and bending.

Come, been and gone ends with a burst of energy to "The Jean Genie". Two women prance on, arm in arm, lifting their knees very high. Four dancers link hands and wind around each other, scurrying into new positions. Breaking into individual dances, they bounce around each other – like people at a disco, a stylised version of the 1970s.

Tours to the Barbican Theatre, London, 28 October to 7 November (0845 120 7550)

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