Simon Williams by Jake Walters
'Warning: this performance contains loud music' say the signs in the foyer. Pumping Warm Leatherette into the Theatre in anticipation of curtain up on the return of Michael Clark Company to the Barbican last night kicked an already excitable vibe up a level and confirmed that yes, the music really is brilliantly loud. Clark brings the buzz of a gig to contemporary dance and last night was the long awaited new work choreographed to some of his favourite punk rock icons: Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and David Bowie.
First up in the programme, a revamped 'Swamp'. Clark's 1986 classic has new bodysuits, lighting and a new mix of dancers, featuring one of the founding members of his company, Ellen van Schuylenburch and the company guest teacher and ballet coach on Billy Elliot, Stephen Beagley. Stripped of the original swampy green and brown bodysuits the piece feels fresher and more human decked out in midnight blue and white. Casting older (brilliant) dancers in the mix is totally refreshing, given dance's usual punishing insistence on youth.
Come, Been and Gone is what we're here for though and The Velvet Underground provide the heady soundtrack to the first half setting a decadent rock scene with "Venus in Furs". There's a microphone upstage, everyone's in silver hipsters and a silver gimp suited dancer writhes across the stage. "Heroin" is memorable. A serious solo from Kate Coyne, embodying the unbearable highs and lows of heroin addiction but clothed in a skag hued bodysuit dotted with hypodermic syringes. Ridiculous but awfully compelling.
After a brief interval we dive back in with Iggy Pop "Mass Production" and Clark himself embroiled with an upside down basin. Then it's Bowie all the way and the piece really comes to euphoric life. His dancers are insanely talented and tremendously technical. Clark's twisted ballet sensibility and love of the music results in unexpected but awesome interpretations. "Heroes", the song that really seeded the whole project, has the dancers sharing the stage with the original Bowie video, using Bowie inspired gestures and subtly inhabiting the soaring anthemic guitars and tuning into the chugging bass. To climax, Aladdin Sane is vibrantly orange with a stunning solo from Simon Williams building to an unstoppably perky Jean Genie showstopper. Adoring Clark fans and newcomers alike were on their feet at the close.
Luke Jennings who wrote a superb review after the Edinburgh Festival performance which all still applies. Check out this BBC Scotland documentary for more about Clark and the creation of the new work.
Part of Dance Umbrella and Bite 09, Michael Clark Company performs at Barbican Theatre until 7th November. Show starts 7.45pm. Tickets £10-35.