I can’t think of anything better than going to a dance performance where Jarvis Cocker appears onstage as a Halloween zombie, rocking out with his band as dancers grind around him in Beetlejuice-styled Lycra, on mirrored stools.
Melissa Hetherington in New Work 2012 by Michael Clark Company at the Barbican Theatre, London Photo: Tristram Kenton
The evening begins with a subtle realignment of our dance senses - muscular men and lithe girls clad in navy silken pinafores and sailor suits move in a fluid, precise linearity as if twirling in a Cunningham playground. Set faithfully to a series of music by Scritti Politti, the piece is fun and lighthearted. Dancers peep out from the wings with taut physical clarity and exact control, before ducking back in and appearing later to leap across the stage in precise formation. It is a soft, almost class-like introduction to Michael Clark’s subversion of balletic style, as he plays with the classical vocabulary, combining sustained movement and control with off-kilter weight shifts and changes of direction.
Everything cranks up a gear post-interval, as electro-ensemble Relaxed Muscle take to the stage and the dancer’s technique becomes even more rebellious and unconstrained. Cocker remains fairly separate from the dancers as he hops down to the front row to hand out sweets and stroke people’s faces.
The shaven headed Julie Cunningham is made for this work. Petite and wily, she has an incredibly extended point and line, precise arms and exact steps, combined with a bewitching musicality. By contrast, Oxana Panchenko is lovely to watch, but definitely looks like a ballerina trying to dance in a contemporary way - awkward and ungainly but with that peculiar constrained grace that draws the eye.
Clark fans will be sated by this unruly untitled work, punters delighted by the fusion of music and movement - and it will gear everyone up for an artistically spooksome Halloween.