Michael Clark

King's Cross, London
19 June 1992 - 28 June 1992

Following the UK tour of Michael Clark's Modern Masterpiece, the sensational dance performance was retitled Mmm... and hailed the return of Michael Clark Company to London.

Mmm... was a fundamental, brutal and highly physical affirmation of life and death. The show's musical anchor was the score from Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring, accompanied by intermissions from the Sex Pistols and T Rex as a way of underscoring the primal, rhythmic and sexual thematics of the performance, its naissance in Stravinsky's 1913 controversial departure from classical ballet.

The dance was staged in a non-theatrical space in King's Cross whose architecture and environment played an essential role in the work. It was performed by The Michael Clark Company comprising at the time Clark himself, Julie Hood and Matthew Hawkins, together with Joanne Barrett and Bessie Clark. Costumes were fashioned by Leigh Bowery, who appeared in the show and Lighting Design was by Charles Atlas. 

Image: Members of the Michael Clark Company, including Leigh Bowery, performing Mmm... at King's Cross Depot, 1992. Photograph: Stephen White

About Michael Clark

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Michael Clark

Michael Clark was born in Aberdeen, Scotland, 1962. He began Scottish traditional dancing at age four, winning numerous awards and trophies at Highland gatherings before moving, age 13, to study at The Royal Ballet School, London. He danced under Richard Glasstone, and in 1979, rather than joining the Royal Ballet Company, Clark took the then-unprecendeted move of rejecting the offer and instead joined Ballet Rambert, eventually moving to New York to dance with Karole Armitage.

In addition to dancing, Clark began choreographing in 1977, and had his first public concert in 1982, at London's Riverside Studios; where later that year, he went on to become the resident choreographer under David Gothard and launched his own company in 1984.

He has collaborated with American choreographer Stephen Petronio - in their now legendary Bed Piece which was first seen at the Anthony D'Offay Gallery, London - artist Sarah Lucas and, fashion designer Hussein Chalayan. He has also worked extensively in film and video, including dancing and choreographing the role of Caliban in Peter Greenaway's Prospero's Books (1991).

In 2005 Clark was made an Artistic Associate of the Barbican Centre and he began working on the Stravinsky Project, a collaboration to produce a trilogy of works to scores by Igor Stravinsky. Mmm… as well as O were radically reworked for this project and performed at the Barbican to great critical acclaim.

Images:  Michael Clark performing during Mmm... 1992 (left) and photograph of the artist Michael Clarke. Photographs: Stephen White


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With tracks by the Sex Pistols and Public Image blaring from loud speakers, Clark’s London premiere of Mmm… kicked off more like a rock concert than a dance performance. One by one, the company bolted across the stage costumed like Harlequins from the Starship Silly. — Richard Flood, Frieze, September 1992

Selected Press

Modern Masterpiece includes a remarkable debut - that of 63-year-old Bessie Clark, his mother. She cut a cosy figure at rehearsal, sitting on the floor in her neat powder-blue tracksuit, reading her Daily Mail and smoking (the dance world seems to be the last refuge of smokers) before strolling on to do her scene. She plays the Sage in The Rite of Spring. Michael cast her originally because she wanted to come on the tour to Japan, and he said if she did, she'd have to work - but now, he says, he sees that she is perfectly cast because "she is quite honestly the wisest person I know. She plays herself: I don't ask her to pretend." — Lynn Barber, The Independent on Sunday, 7 June 1992


In Modern Masterpiece Clark has found a new purity and subtlety of movement to place beside the exhilarating density of his dance. In Julie Hood and Matthew Hawkins he has long-time associates who understand and interpret his work like no others; and in Joanne Barrett he has discovered a sensational new dancer whose virtuoso talents are stretched to extraordinary limits. — Christopher Bowen, Time Out, 17 - 24 June 1992


Until recently, one of the more conspicuous posters decorating London streets was that of a pop art vagina, its heavy black outlines offsetting concentric circles of blinding fuchsia and gaudily unreal flesh tones. Accompanying the image was the legend "Mmm . . .", a clever, but also knowingly suggestive abbreviation of Michael Clark's Modern Masterpiece.  — Sophie Constanti, The Guardian, 18 June 1992

Performer Biographies

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Performer Biographies

Joanne Barrett graduated with a B.FA from Ohio State University. She spent four years in Chicago working with various companies. In 1990, she was nominated for a Ruth Page Award, for Outstanding Dancer of the Year. She danced with Michael Clark for the Brazilian tour in 1990 and performed in WRONG WRONG before becoming a full-time member of Michael Clark & Company - assisting Clark with his work for the Berlin Oper. She also performed in the Michael Clark & Company Japanese tour in January 1992.

Leigh Bowery has done stacks of fabulous things. He's been great chums with Michael for years, and has made loads of beautiful outfits for him. (This biography was on the original programme, Bowery sadly passed away in 1994; Clark, although now not a regular performer on stage, stepped into his role in Mmm... for recent London productions).

Bessie Clark (Elizabeth Winifred Kiloh Clark nee Duncan) was born on a farm near Turriff, Aberdeenshire, Scotland on 1st February 1924. She worked as a nurse and married a farmer with whom she had a family of four children, two daughters and two sons, of which Michael Clark was the youngest. Her husband died in 1980. After being widowed, Bessie Clark worked as a warden in sheltered housing until she retired at the age of 65. She first performed with Michael Clark & Company in Brazil and France in 1991. She also performed with their tour in Japan in 1992.

Read the complete performer biographies 

Image: Members of the Michael Clark Company take a bow having performed Mmm... at King's Cross Depot, 1992. Photograph: Stephen White

Michael Clark was Born Again

by Sophie Fiennes
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Michael Clark was Born Again

On nine consecutive nights in a warehouse near Kings Cross
by Sophie Fiennes

Michael Clark was calling me from Angers in France sometimes three times a day, sometimes in the middle of the night - “I want you to come and see what I am doing” - left plaintive messages; “Don’t forget me dear”.

I was working with filmmaker Peter Greenaway and met Michael when he played Caliban in Greenaway’s Prospero’s Books. Michael and I had connected immediately on account of our mutual ability to recite the complete lyrics to David Bowies ’Diamond Dog’s LP.

So following some TV post production in Paris, I took a train to Angers where Michael was collaborating with New York choreographer Stephan Petronio on a dance to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring - they had each selected sections of the music to work with. Michael ran a sequence for me that afternoon - performed by a young American dancer called Joanne Barrett.

Despite zero knowledge of dance, I was instantly transfixed. This solo for the sacrificial chosen maiden who dances herself to death, played brilliantly with and against the bold dynamics of the music. There was a fusion of violence and vulnerability. I didn’t fully understand it. It was elusive and strangely coherent. The experience held me, and after some seductive cajoling from Michael I dared myself to return to London as his ‘manager’.

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Image: Three members of the Michael Clark Company performing Mmm... at King's Cross Depot, 1992. Photograph: Stephen White

Production Credits

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Production Credits

Michael Clark Company:
Joanne Barrett
Leigh Bowery 
Bessie Clark
Michael Clark
Matthew Hawkins 
Julie Hood 

Choreography: Michael Clark 
Music Includes: Theme - Pil, The Rite of Spring - Stravinsky, Submission - Sex Pistols
Costumes: Leigh Bowery
Lighting Design: Charles Atlas
Set Design: Micheal Clark & Steve Scott
Type Projections: Malcom Garrett

Producer for Michael Clark Ccompany: Sophie Fiennes
Technical Manager: Paul O'Brien
Stage Manager: Lucy Bestwick
Production Assistant: Katy Archard
Company Accountant: Eliza Poklewski-Koziell  
Company Teacher: Richard Glasstone
Set Constrtuction: Streeter & Jessel
Publicity: Charles McDonald

Special Thanks to: Kees Kasander, Tulse Luper, Mark Brady, Richard Smerdon, Nigel Heath, Chris Wyatt, Douglas Hart Rehersal Facilities


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Who made this possible?


Michael Clark's Modern Masterpiece was originally commissioned by Nottingham Playhouse in asociation with Nottinghamshire New Arts Works and Dance 4. It was retitled Mmm... and toured under The Artangel / Beck's commission. Presented in London with the support of London Arts Board. 

Artangel is generously supported by the private patronage of The Artangel International CircleSpecial AngelsGuardian Angels and The Company of Angels.