Two rising dance stars take talents different ways
David Bintley and Michael Clark are two talented young men who share a common foundation in classical dance. Yet their choreographic creations presented recently at the opening of the London dance season, show how differently they have developed this foundation. Where Bintley leans on tested traditions, Clark reaches out -- way out -- to today's complex themes. The results are as diverse as the music from a symphony orchestra and a hard-rock band. Both men are products of the Royal Ballet School, where they trained as classical dancers. Bintley is a principal with the Royal Ballet, and Clark stars in his own company, which he formed two years ago. Both branched out early into the field of choreography, and their works and progress always attract much attention.
Bintley, at 28, is the classicist. He has produced more than 15 ballets, all developed along traditional lines with the distinctive British style and flavor learned from working with Sir Frederick Ashton, the father figure of British ballet. Last summer, Bintley, a quiet Yorkshire man, was appointed resident choreographer to the Royal Ballet Company, a tribute to his success and an assurance that its national balletic traditions will continue.
Clark, at 23, is a colorful character whose hair style has changed from Mohican to pigtail to today's crop-cut. His choreography depicts, in punk dance terms, the seamy and often shocking side of life. His flamboyant, compelling style erupts on stage in a weird and frenzied freedom of expression. His work brings him a devoted following, but it is certainly not to everyone's taste. Many dance lovers feel Clark's appeal is based on sexual innuendoes and crude actions.
His most recent work, which premi`ered in London and was seen last month in New York at the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Next Wave Festival, proved so popular that the two-week tour had to be extended. Titled ``No Fire Escape in Hell,'' it is a tribute to a friend and designer who died from an overdose of drugs.
Accompanied by the music of the Yugoslavian rock band ``Laibach,'' Clark paints a bizarre view of society, with a black mass in Act III. But the piece is not all gloom and doom; it contains much humor. His nine dancers cavort in many disguises, such as goldfish, a large green blob, a New York policeman, English bobbies, and a ghost in sneakers and cricket gloves. At one point, a huge, plastic fried egg decorates the backdrop like a harvest moon.
Clark's conception of movement is graceful and symmetrical, and he proves himself to be a precise and talented dancer in his many solos.
Bintley's new full-length ballet, ``The Snow Queen,'' based on Andersen's fairy tale, and his one-act ballet ``Flowers of the Forest'' were performed by the Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet Company at the Royal Opera House.
Both ballets told much about their creator: his musicality, emphasis on technique, and attention to detail. Of the two, the short piece, set in Scotland to lilting ballads and laments, lucidly demonstrated Bintley's eye and ear for pattern and precision. The combination of swirling kilts above the dancers' fleet and accurate footwork and the flowing pace conveyed the atmosphere of the Highlands.
But the long-awaited ``Snow Queen'' was disappointing. Bintley's one-act works, such as ``Chorus,'' ``Consort Lessons,'' and ``Young Apollo,'' have shown his brilliance at interpreting musical scores into dance form. Alas, in ``The Snow Queen'' he is so dedicated to detailing every minute aspect of the story, that the ballet, three hours long, gets bogged down in the icy atmosphere. His usual talent for tightly weaving music and movement often seems forgotten, and he misses moments in ``Snow Queen'' that seem ripe for action.
On the plus side, the ballet is stunningly beautiful, with wonderful costumes -- the Snow Queen's silken cape swirls around her as she strides through the Kingdom of the North, and her white-faced, shaggy-maned Wolves could be members of any of today's avant-garde pop groups. There is a good deal of spinning and twirling action by a spritely dwarf and a charming, gentle pas de deux between the Queen and the young boy, Kay (danced professionally by Grant Thunder, a pupil at the Royal Ballet School). The ballet has potential, and a good snipping would transform it into an ideal Christmas outing, a welcome alternative to the countless annual performances of ``The Nutcracker.''