MMM... Barbican Theatre, London

Each step is perfect, but the dancers go nowhere

By Zoe Anderson
Tuesday 31 October 2006 01:44

Mmm... ends with a staging of Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring", played live on two pianos. The dancers twist into poses, legs splayed, feet strictly arched, their costumes full of zips and strategic holes. Some are dressed as lavatories, while the Chosen Maiden wears a Hitler moustache and firm control knickers. It is obviously by Michael Clark.

It is the second show of Clark's Stravinsky Project, his three-year collaboration with the Barbican. And it's full of Clark characteristics: the exaggerated costumes, the technical rigour, the self-indulgent content. He makes real steps, has them strictly danced, then goes nowhere with them.

People go on believing in Clark. He was a phenomenal dancer, an angelic punk who left ballet and then modern dance to create his own shows, splashy 1980s spectacles that crossed dance with visual art and club culture. He became increasingly erratic, making successive comebacks, but his supporters - as much from the art as the dance world - stay loyal. Damien Hirst, Gary Hume, Anish Kapoor and Tracey Emin were among artists who donated works to a benefit sale this month, raising almost £1m for the Michael Clark Company.

Back on track, Clark has been working steadily at his company. But at 44, he's no longer an enfant terrible, no longer the radiant star of his own shows, though he makes brief onstage appearances.

Mmm... has a pop beginning, with dances to music by Wire and the Sex Pistols. Clark's dancers inch across the stage, holding angular poses with hips thrust forward. They fold themselves up, sliding to the floor, or rush into bursts of quick footwork. The dancers are agile and very strong, with clean lines and careful style. But it's localised rigour. Clark takes great care over the placing of a foot, but not over the structure of a dance.

Instead, he keeps things going with splashes of theatre, of costuming: he isn't aiming for coherence, and he doesn't find it. The music switches to Barbra Streisand, while the dancers reappear dressed in nothing but furred or feathered gloves, hands clasped over genitalia as they move carefully from pose to pose. Costumes are by Leigh Bowery and Stevie Stewart of Bodymap. When Clark takes on Stravinsky, boldly played by Philip Moore and Andrew West, he gives us more of the same. The costumes - rubber kilts, skull caps, with blue eye shadow and sequinned noses - are more memorable than the steps. Other costumes just don't work. One dancer staggers about in a sort of satin Michelin Man outfit, white fabric stretched over huge boots, headdress and rounded belly. Sniggers break out every time this apparition turns up. Steven Scott's set, with many swing doors opening and closing, makes a stronger impression. Clark's dancers do him proud, with Amy Hollingsworth fierce and cool as the Chosen Maiden. They hold Clark's "Rite" together for him, but they can't keep it moving forwards.

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