Characteristically, Michael Clark’s All Three at Once is part-recycled, comprising one new piece sandwiched by last year’s double bill. It opens with a suspended figure descending from above, touching down with perfect placement; indeed throughout the evening, the dancers’ prodigious command and affectless efficiency make them look superhuman, like gods or androids from some higher plane.
Part one: if progammable androids in identikit gymslips were made to dance to the winsome pop of Scritti Politti, they might dance like this: stark articulations of limbs, calculated leans and lunges, slightly skewed and studiously set to beats. At first it looks underchoreographed, even lacklustre, like a series of classroom exercises, but soon it begins to read like a primer in Clark’s style. Each number is built around a single element: balletic brushes of the foot, controlled rolls of hip and shoulder, semaphore gestures, and a kind of extreme pilates in which the dancers isolate articulations of the limbs and spine while on the floor or upside down. The interest lies largely in the magnificent machinery of the movement – until the end, when the choreography comes unexpectedly into its own as the music fades, spare lines and simple rhythms resolving into patterns of limpid radiance.
If Scritti Politti softens the dancers’ edge, the punk rock of the second part revs them up. The first song, Albatross by Public Image Ltd, sets the imagery. Julie Cunningham spreads her arms wide as wings, breastbone arched and fingers splayed, then pitches forward as if to dive down. The dancers ride the rough waves of music as if it were their element. The New York Dolls and Sex Pistols usher in a more urban, alienated feel, with zigzagging paths, scissoring jumps and jiggy spines.
It further heightens Clark's characteristic tension between extreme formality and urgent energy.
The third part, to music by Relaxed Muscle (Jarvis Cocker and Jason Buckle), is less cohesive, but further heightens Clark’s characteristic tension between extreme formality and urgent energy. The men stride and spin in tequila-sunrise unitards, while the women, in zebra-striped chevrons, icily hump mirrored stools. A searchlight strafes the audience, and projected lines of block type scroll sideways and backwards (even with language, Clark is focused on shape and direction). The dancers – Cunningham, Harry Alexander, Melissa Hetherington, Oxana Panchenko, Daniel Squire and Benjamin Warbis – are formidable, and the lighting and costumes are transfixing. Even so, when it was presented last year, Jarvis Cocker’s demonic live performance overpowered everything else on stage. This year he appears only on film, and only in the final number – and proves powerful again.