Review – Michael Clark Stravinsky Project – Barbican Theatre

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The Michael Clark Stravinsky Project is really worth writing about, and not just because the foolish 7:45 start time contributed painfully to my midnight end time and braindeadness today. I was pretty excited about seeing a show that had three Stravinsky pieces in it (despite being so far up in the theater I expected to see a colony of bats lodged above us), since he’s one of my favorite composers. The chosen pieces were “Apollo” (not very exciting musically in my book), “Rite of Spring” (need I say more), and “Les Noces,” which as it turns out is pretty good even though it started out reminding me of the stimmtspiele stuff we saw with Pierrot Lunaire that about turned me off having singing at a dance performance ever again. And hey, the program “warned” that the evening contained nudity, which in my mind is always a positive thing in an arts performance, especially if we’re talking dance.

This promise was not entirely carried out, though the costuming was actually quite interesting. Dancers in rubber skirts? Dancers in body stockings with shiny bits wrapped around their bodies in interesting patterns? I liked this part. However, I was quite taken aback by the dancers wearing toliet seats on their shoulder with their heads protruding from the center. What really was this about? Was the “Rite of Spring” (called “Mmmmm” as a dance performance) really all about people who really needed to go to the bathroom? Is that why they were grabbing their crotches? Or was it all just some “I’m a wacky modern choreographer” silliness? I couldn’t really tell, and the ending, with either a Hitler or a Charlie Chaplin character dancing a long solo, left me mystified, or, rather, eager for some interval ice cream.

Anyway, the movement (isn’t this about the movement, ultimately?) was quite good. The “Apollo” piece (“O”) really seemed a tribute to the Balanchine choreography, only with Apollo in a mirrored box, on his back, doing a little duet with his reflection. “The Rite of Spring” let me down a bit, for while the movement was interesting (Michael Clark can really do partnering – his dancers seemed to float in the air at time!), it just couldn’t keep up with the power of the music. During the most dramatic bit, there just seemed to be a little bit of tweedling on stage, but what I expected to see was something really, really powerful. I admit the fact it was performed (musically) on two pianos also didn’t help.

The final bit was “Les Noces” (“I do” for Clark), which to me seemed to be about the sexual desire of brides and, well, you know, the couples. There was a very interesting bit where the women dancers stood up and, with their hands pulling between their legs, dragged the male dancers off stage one by one. Despite the fact this was my favorite piece, the costuming proved aggravating, at first because it was so distracting I had to tell myself to NOT look at it (the shiny things on the dancers noses and the queue-like bald head prostheses on their heads were utterly bizarre), but then later because the colors of the body stockings were off from the dancer’s own skin tones. This only really made me nuts for the Asian (Chinese/Japanese or such, though apparently New Zealandese) guy, who got a BROWN body stocking. It was so off. Admittedly it match one of the female dancers, but it just drove me crazy because everyone else was almost perfectly matched and this just looked … like they were trying to make him look like something he’s not. And the end look of the woman coming out totally wrapped up in some kind of knitted outfit with a big curved knitted cap over the top – well, she just looked like she was wearing a giant willie warmer, and I wouldn’t put it beyond the choreographer to have done that deliberately. Oh, those crazy Scottish choreographers!

Anyway, though it was a good night, I would have preferred to just see two pieces (they were all quite meaty, so it wouldn’t have been like I would have felt cheated) and got home a little earlier. Tonight is Aida, and I sure hope it’s compelling because I am going to be worn out.

(This review is for a performance on November 7th, 2007.)

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