Michael Clark company with live music by Jarvis Cocker/Relaxed Muscle, plus Scritti Politti

don't try this at home...v

don’t try this at home…

There was a blue stage; a void. Then there was the voice of Green unfurling like smoke over the bare embers of a beat. And then there were the dancers of the Michael Clark Company, strict and beautiful androgynes in tunics of slate grey. Not running or jumping or diving or swooning but stepping. As if across a glacier or a rope in the air. Cells into crystals, they formed into pairs. Atoms splitting, the pairs broke apart. Moving at the speed of time slowing to stand still, the dancers seemed not to be dancing at all. Or if they were dancing, it was a dance made up not of movement of the body but of some other rhythm acting upon it.

“The boom boom bap, the tappy tap tap, that’s the beat of my life,” sang Green to the tappy tap of their feet.

The music stopped and there was silence. Silence, except for the sound of friction produced from the pressure of the dancers’ feet against the stage – moisture on rubber – so that it seemed as if the sound of friction was the music and the flex of bare feet, the dance. All of life stripped to a single, shared pulse.

All disappeared into darkness and silence. The darkness was broken by a thin thread of light projected onto the back of the stage as the silence was broken by the the electronic jungle rock doo wop boogaloo of Relaxed Muscle – the prodigal child of Jarvis Cocker and producer Jason Buckle – breaking into the widening light.

Dancers in skin tight flame suits shot across the stage, electrical messages sent from a giant brain. Imagination sparking. Urges releasing. The white strip began to form into letters and the letters into a broken pattern of words, in sync with the beat but not any kind of linear order until at last they spelt out:

“I’m thinking about forming a zoo.”

Words made real, out of the shadows at the back of the stage, Relaxed Muscle appeared, drums, guitar and all, thinly disguised in wigs, face paint and shades – living embodiments of their self-styled “Muscle Music”. The flame-dancers melted away. In their place appeared half-human, half-animal creatures in op-art zebra suits, products from a spell conjured from the strange sorcery of music and words. Wild abstractions of the imagination made visible. Beasts of the mind’s zoo, or perhaps of the psyche, run away to the circus, they prowled across the stage in comic jags, thrusts and jumps.

Luminous in neon orange face paint and stalking the stage in red winkle pinkers, a paisley silk scarf trailing from his waist to the floor, Jarvis presided over this wild performance, a psychotic presiding over the unravelling of his own lunacy.
It is said that in the kingdom of animals, it is a dog eat dog world. And so when Michael Clark himself appeared brandishing two mirrored stools like a double shield, it was he who became the ring master, and Jarvis the beast, rushing madly at his reflection as Clark goaded him on until the music died and the dancers fled and all that could be heard was a high-pitched yelp through the dark.

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