Michael Clark: Punk Ballet

When I think of the ballet I imagine an overwhelmingly civilized, conservative event at Lincoln Center – men wearing tuxedos with their wives in Chanel and Herrera, and everyone watching the dancers moving gracefully, and quietly in a very tight, well-mannered sort of way.  Michael Clark was an insanely talented dancer, accepted to the Royal Ballet School in London at the age of 12, who identified the same characteristics in the world of ballet.  But while most dancers grow into the constructs of the academies, Clark enmeshed himself with the anarchy of 70s London and ran with it.

He created Michael Clark and Company in 1984 when he was 22 years old.  Clark did ballet a different way – the music was punk or rock n’ roll, with Clark consistently collaborating with The Fall, the costumes were Vivienne Westwood, Leigh Bowery, or Bodymap, the sets were beautifully simple, and the dance was wholly unique.

Clark has said, “I strived for a long time to uneducate myself, because punk was about working with very little. But I was really well trained and I had to find a way to work with that rather than against it. I found I could do better working with people who didn’t dance, like Leigh Bowery. But Leigh was absolutely determined to do everything really well. He wouldn’t want to do something badly. His appreciation of the technical content of what I did was a real eye-opener to me, because I thought that in order to communicate with people who didn’t know about dance one had to simplify things; Leigh taught me that you didn’t, that it’s not about that.”

Michael Clark’s genius is pretty undeniable.  He changed the world of dance for those that lived within it, and for the rest of us who considered it from the outside.  There was a great article written about him in the Observer, to read more just follow the link.


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