Nijinsky with a mohawk: The edgy collaborations of punk ballet dancer Michael Clark and The Fall

Although he and his dance troupe have performed choreography set to the music of Wire, Glenn Branca, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Brian Eno, Igor Stravinsky and others, it is his work with The Fall that the work of Scottish dancer and choreographer Michael Clark will always be the most closely associated with.

The classically-trained Clark has said that hearing the manic, rubbery, jagged-edged relentlessly repetitious music of Manchester’s post-punk bard Mark E. Smith was a sort of clarion call for him as a young man to start doing his own work—if punk bands could do their thing, then that same ethos and attitude (and shock value) could go into creating a new form of modern ballet. Clark’s vision of ballet happened to incorporate Leigh Bowery wielding a chainsaw, syringes strapped to his dancers and sets festooned with fried egg trees . Clark seemed touched by the gods. His angular, asymmetrical, yet bizarrely graceful form of movement caused a sensation in the dance world. He was Nijinksy with a mohawk.

Michael Clark as Caliban in Peter Greenaway’s Prospero’s Books

The Fall and Clark’s company appeared together on The Old Grey Whistle Test in 1984 in a provocative performance of “Lay of the Land” that saw Clark prancing around in a Bodymap leotard that exposed his ass cheeks to the nation as the group made a mighty roar behind him.

They collaborated more formally in 1988 when The Fall provided the live soundtrack for Clark’s ballet “I Am Curious, Orange” at the Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London (The Fall’s LP was called I Am Kurious Oranj). Some tantalizing looks at what that production was like come from Cerith Wyn Evans videos for “Wrong Place, Right Time” and “New Big Prinz,” which were apparently shot at a rehearsal.

Below, “New Big Prinz”

More after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
The Indefinable Leigh Bowery: Vintage documentary presented by Hugh Laurie


“Fashion is a bit of a problem with me, because you have to appeal to too many people, and I like appealing to maybe one-or-two. Then, I like them to be interested in me, but never dare copy me.”

Leigh Bowery admitted he couldn’t tell the difference between a stage and a street. They were both platforms on which to present himself. But if asked he was asked to explain himself, that presented problem that Leigh thought best solved by being thankful he existed.

Well, of course, as Leigh gave much to be thankful for.

Though Leigh Bowery defied facile definition, he is best remembered as a fantastical character whose talent, energy and discipline gave others the chance to be themselves, and thus to be free.

In this episode of the London-centric TV show South of Watford, Hugh Laurie (yes, him off House) trails around with Leigh, and takes a close-up look at all of his different creations: from fashion and dance, to clubs and films. It includes interviews with dancer Michael Clark, director John Maybury and gender illusionist Alana Pellay.

The rest of Hugh Laurie in search of Leigh Bowery, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Glitterbug: Derek Jarman’s final film

Glitterbug was Derek Jarman’s final film, compiled from the many hours of Super 8 footage he had shot throughout his life. Originally made in 1994 for the BBC’s Arena. arts strand, Glitterbug is a visual journal that ties together aspects of Jarman’s life from the 1970s to 1990s.

The film opens with the artist awakened by the memory of dreams, of lovers, of friends, of place - Jarman’s lofts on Bankside, Upper Ground, the Thames River; of self, shaving, washing, breakfasting - those small rituals that prepare the day, the structuring of artifice and order. The world outside, My Tea Shop, the day-time existence, Jarman’s curiosity for the world around him. Then at night another world, we see preparation for Andrew Logan’s Alternative Miss World, returning to day, a garden party, is this Andrew Logan singing as Little Nell Campbell dances? Duggie Fields watches, Jarman films.

The dreamer sleeps, travels to the country, Van Gogh fields, standing stones, the memory of place, absence of others, a white-washed cottage room, the creation of art, the structuring of order.

The dreamer awake, and we are now watching Jarman at work, Sebastiane, the sea flecked gold, the actors at play, legs entwined. An office, an apartment, ‘phone calls, then filming the artist Duggie Fields, his designs, his face, a prelude to Jubilee, a young flame-haired Toyah Willcox, The Sex Pistols, Jordan and a dress rehearsal for what will become The Last of England, as she pirouettes around a burning Union Jack, Adam Ant, hair-cutting, the Silver Jubilee.

Jarman is showing us the sketches for preparation, the themes he returned to throughout his life. Rome, ritual, the research for Caravaggio, punk, the art of mirrors, The Slits, William Burroughs, Gensis P. Orridge, Throbbing Gristle, Jarman’s fascinations and obsessions, his idols and co-conspirators. The ritual of sharing tea, sharing cigarettes, a shared communion, youthful faces, sun flecked, smiling in the sun, a future ahead, too often cut short by the frost, this the last summer they danced on the rooftop,  ‘Here I am, here are my secrets,’ he is saying, as we plunder through his film diaries, Super 8 scrapbook, glittering trinket chest, memory is what makes us, what sometimes betrays us, what gives us the love we have to share, returning to the Thames, the friends, the lovers, those living, those dead.

Glitterbug Derek Jarman’s Super 8 films, with Andrew Logan, Duggie Fields, Tilda Swinton, Michael Clark, Adam Ant, Toyah Willcox, William Burroughs and Genesis P. Orridge. Music by Brian Eno, specially commissioned for this film.


Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
The Legend of Leigh Bowery

The Legend of Leigh Bowery is a brilliant documentary about a brilliant man.

Directed by Charles Atlas, the film covers Bowery’s life and times from his suburban beginnings in Sunshine, Australia, to his fame on London’s club scene in the 1980s and his success as one of the most influential and daring fashion designers in the past thirty years.

The Legend of Leigh Bowery has incredible archive footage and excellent contributions from Michael Clark, Sue Tilley, Michael Bracewell, Richard Torry, Donald Urquhart, Damien Hirst, Boy George and Leigh’s wife, Nicola Bowery.

Previously on Dangerous Minds

Leigh Bowery interviewed by Gary Glitter from ‘Night Network’, 1989

Watch the rest of ‘The Legend of Leigh Bowery’, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment