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Arts & Culture
Michael Clark: The Stravinsky Project
By Martin Barber
The critically acclaimed Michael Clark Company brings the Stravinsky Project to the county as part of the Norfolk And Norwich Festival 2008, presenting all three pieces in the work outside London for the first time.
Scene from Mmm...
Lovers of contemporary dance are in for a rare treat this month when Michael Clark's Stravinsky Project tours to the Norwich Theatre Royal as part of the Norfolk And Norwich Festival on Friday, 9 and Saturday, 10 May.
The visit to Norfolk follows a critically acclaimed run at London's Barbican in October 2007. It's the first time all three pieces of the project O, Mmm... and I Do - danced to Stravinsky's Apollo, The Rite Of Spring and Les Noces - will be performed outside of London.
The work is presented over two evenings and celebrates the marriage between tradition and innovation. A marriage which is at the very heart of Stravinsky's music and Clark's choreography.
All three scores are performed live with Jurjen Hempel conducting the Britten Sinfonia for O (performed on 9 May), joined by the New London Chamber Choir for I Do (performed on 10 May).
The second evening's performance also features Philip Moore and Andrew West playing Stravinsky's arrangement for piano duet for The Rite Of Spring.
"In London it's been a pretty unique opportunity for my dancers and myself to work with a full orchestra, so to bring it outside London to Norwich is an amazing achievement really," said Michael Clark.
Stravinsky Project: Melissa Hetherington
Working with a live orchestra "is a very different mentality. You have to deal with all sorts of things happening. It thickens the plot.
"There can be real battles between prima-ballerinas and conductors and it can be really visible that they are fighting one another. But also, there's a complexity to Stravinsky’s work that I think makes for parameters that challenge us."
The Stravinsky Project - a trilogy
Michael Clark created Mmm... set to Stravinsky's The Rite Of Spring in 1992. Two years later he developed O, a new work centring on Stravinsky's Apollo. It wasn't until much later the Stravinsky Project emerged as the trilogy seen today.
Clark's first introduction to The Rite Of Spring happened when working with Richard Alston, a choreographer whose company regularly visits the county.
"Richard Alston's Rite Of Spring is where it got under my skin, but I was one of these really annoying dancers that was always right and everyone else is wrong," said Clark.
"The Rite Of Spring was the one I made first and frankly, I thought I could do a better job than all the versions I'd seen. I thought I could meet the music.
"Dance can be technically challenging and very much of this time that we're in. I think when he [Stravinsky] wrote that music he was years ahead of everyone making dance at that time. He must have struggled with it.
"Apollo, The Right of Spring and Les Noces are kind of like your parents – in the context of being a dancer and choreographer. I grew up with those as seminal works, that without which the art of choreography wouldn't be what it is today.
Stravinsky Project: Stefano Rosato
"They took me to a whole new level, so to take them on is to give myself a greater challenge.
"I knew, and know, I'm then compared, often unfavourably, to the original pieces. But that's also a question that was in my mind, 'What is the real thing? What is authentic?'
"And going back to the Stravinsky thing – the order in which he wrote those pieces, Apollo came much later than Right Of Spring or Les Noces.
"It's interesting in the way that he moved around in the history of music really. It's not logical which is something that I think is very interesting about his work," he added.
Clark is known for pushing the boundaries - in his work and in his relationship with his audience.
"I'm working with human beings. At one extreme I'm asking them to do incredibly hard things, some things they are not able to do," he said.
"There are things I choreograph that I know aren't possible, but part of the excitement for me is in seeing somebody try and struggle and maybe fail.
"I hope that the audience are also being asked to work as well, to work hard, but I guess that's the difference between entertainment in the conventional sense. I hope there's some kind of change taking place, but now I'm setting myself up to be despised."
The Stravinsky Project is performed at the Norwich Theatre Royal on Friday, 9 and Saturday 10 May at 7.45pm. It appears in Norwich ahead of its US premiere in New York.
• 9 May, programme 1: Act 1, O
• 10 May, programme 2: Mmm…, I Do
last updated: 09/05/2008 at 19:38
Michael Clark: A brief biography
Michael Clark was born in Aberdeen, Scotland, in 1962. In 1975 he left home to study at The Royal Ballet School in London and in 1979 Clark joined Ballet Rambert, working primarily with Richard Alston.
Michael Clark and Company was launched in 1984 with a programme of two works: Do You Me? I Did and New Puritans. The company was an immediate success. Through collaborations with fashion designers Bodymap, Leigh Bowery and the artist Trojan, Clark brought a rich visual element to the work.
His use of contemporary music and his incorporation of bands such as The Fall, Laibach, and Wire also broadened both his work and his audience.
Going on to create a number of original, large scale works for his company Clark was commissioned by the Anthony D'Offay gallery in 1989 to create Hetrospective, one of his most intimate and personal works to date.
After three years of commissions and solo work he created Mmm… set to Stravinsky's ‘The Rite of Spring’ which toured Japan and the UK in 1992.
Michael further developed his Modern Masterpiece with a new work centring on Stravinsky's 'Apollo': O in 1994.
In 2005 Michael Clark became an Artistic Associate of the Barbican in London. O Stravinsky Project Part 1 premiered on the 1st of November 2005 and marked the first of three projects centred on seminal dance scores by Stravinsky.
Mmm... Stravinsky Project Part 2 premiered on the 27th of October 2006. The project concluded with a new work I Do, presented alongside O and Mmm..., in one evening.
The final instalment of the Stravinsky Project premiered at the Barbican Theatre on 2 November 2007.Source: www.michaelclarkcompany.com