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New V&A Dundee exhibition explores work of ‘visionary’ dancer Michael Clark

It runs from Saturday until September 4.

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Dance student Emma Smith at the preview for the Michael Clark: Cosmic Dancer exhibition at the VandA Dundee (Jane Barlow/PA)

Dance student Emma Smith at the preview for the Michael Clark: Cosmic Dancer exhibition at the VandA Dundee (Jane Barlow/PA)

Dance student Emma Smith at the preview for the Michael Clark: Cosmic Dancer exhibition at the VandA Dundee (Jane Barlow/PA)

An exhibition about Michael Clark, who is described as “the David Bowie of dance”, opens this weekend at the V&A Dundee.

Michael Clark: Cosmic Dancer spans the dancer and choreographer’s career to date and explores his collaborations across the visual arts, music, fashion and film.

Born in Aberdeen in 1962, Clark began traditional Scottish dancing at the age of four and in 1975 left home to study at the Royal Ballet School in London.

He formed his own dance company in 1984 when he was only 22.

As a young choreographer he brought together his classical ballet training with London’s punk, fashion and club culture to establish himself as one of the most innovative artists working in contemporary dance.

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Giant stage props feature in the exhibition (Jane Barlow/PA)

Giant stage props feature in the exhibition (Jane Barlow/PA)

Giant stage props feature in the exhibition (Jane Barlow/PA)

Film, photography, costume and archive material from throughout his career are presented in a series of different rooms in the exhibition, showing Clark as a pioneer who can transcend different disciplines.

Leonie Bell, director of V&A Dundee, said: “Michael Clark is a huge talent who brings new ideas, tradition, energy and amazing skill to dance. So much of his work feels as alive, thoughtful and relevant as it did in the years it was created.

“Michael Clark remains hugely relevant today, challenging convention and reflecting the energy of the world around him, with ideas around gender and sexuality explored in breathtakingly beautiful performances.

“For me, Michael Clark is the David Bowie of dance, an inventor who with grace and energy has found new ways for us all to enjoy and be inspired by dance.”

Clark’s collaborators have ranged from Leigh Bowery and The Fall to non-professional dancers, while his diverse musical influences include Bowie, Jarvis Cocker, Patti Smith, T.Rex and composers Erik Satie and Igor Stravinsky.

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A work by Sarah Lucas features a cast of Michael Clark’s body (Jane Barlow/PA)

A work by Sarah Lucas features a cast of Michael Clark’s body (Jane Barlow/PA)

A work by Sarah Lucas features a cast of Michael Clark’s body (Jane Barlow/PA)

An immersive film and sound installation has been created for the exhibition by Sophie Fiennes and Susan Stenger, which mixes heavy metal music with Clark’s radical choreography, while Sarah Lucas has conceived two installations for the show, including a parodying sculpture of Clark’s body sitting on a toilet.

Meanwhile a room dedicated to The Fall and Clark’s landmark performance I Am Curious, Orange (1988) features stage props of a huge burger and baked bean cans.

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The exhibition has been curated by Florence Ostende of London’s Barbican Centre.

She said: “I am delighted this exhibition will bring Michael Clark’s visionary creativity back to his home country of Scotland.

“Clark is fascinating as a pioneer who brought together different disciplines to completely change contemporary dance and the British cultural landscape, from embracing and celebrating queer culture in the 1980s through to redefining gender representation and stereotypes within the heteronormative tradition of ballet history.

“This exhibition, one of the largest surveys ever dedicated to a living choreographer, presents a comprehensive story of Clark’s career.”

The exhibition runs from Saturday until September 4.

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