Choreographed by Michael Clark in 1992 Mmm… takes The Rite of Spring down a new avenue into punk-rock ballet. Michael Clark is known for his alternative modern interpretations of ballet and original choreography. At the Barbican in 2006 Mmm…was revived and coupled with other Stravinsky ballets choreographed by Clark to become Stravinsky Project Part 2: Mmm…. The other parts are entitled Stravinsky Project Part 1: O, which is set to Stravinsky’s Apollo, and Stravinsky Project Part 3: I Do set to Stravinsky’s Les Noces, which is often performed in succession with Mmm….
Mmm… is an interesting production of The Rite of Spring. For one, the style of choreography, although modern and rather gymnastic, is far more recognisable and accessible to contemporary audiences than Nijinsky’s ballet was in 1913. It would seem that although Clark has rebelled against conventional and traditional ballet, he is no match for Nijinsky in shocking the audience. However, he does add some wonderful details to the ballet. He brings in an element of punk-rock glam with the dancers wearing leather style kilts, which seem to highlight the dancers on the sparse stage. Joining them are an ensemble of black toilet-seat-collared dancers, a skull-bearing sage with a lace veil, and ‘flower people’ wearing crotch-less green patterned tights.
With the ingenious addition of mirrors as part of the backdrop the audience are able to get a more rounded, and indeed a 360-degree view of the imaginative dancing. These mirrors actually rotate, heightening the juxtapositions of viewpoints, with light and flashes of red reflecting off the surfaces as they move.
What is most striking is the combination of the yoga-like choreography and the music, which here is played on two pianos rather than a whole orchestra. The tantric movements seem to be slightly disjointed from Stravinsky’s polyrhythmic phrases, adding to the punk-rock idea of rebelling against the norm. Continuing in this bold and boundary-push vain, Clark has not choreographed the overture, following in Nijinsky’s footsteps. Such deference to this section of music is rare nowadays, and many of the productions of The Rite of Spring have had the overture choreographed.
Clark’s version of The Rite of Spring is probably best viewed in relation to the whole of the Stravinsky Project, where Mmm… is accompanied by other Stravinsky ballets and enlivened with music from the likes of Wire, the Sex Pistols and Iggy Pop. The culmination of all the music, dancing, costumes and performers is something which does ultimately make the audience re-evaluate ballet and dance, along with contemporary notions of society.