Michael Clark (Doctor of Art)Wednesday, 27 July, 2011
North-east Dancer Honoured by RGU
Michael Clark, internationally renowned dancer and choreographer, was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Art on Friday 15 July by Robert Gordon University at His Majesty's Theatre Aberdeen.
Michael Clark is a dancer and choreographer whose originality and inventiveness has both challenged and inspired his audiences. In October 2007, The Independent newspaper ran a story entitled, Michael Clark: The man who put the punk into modern dance is now choreographing Stravinsky. The article goes on to refer to Michael's work as "turning into something amazing, a sustained and gorgeous wave of weaving bodies, working together like they are the most intricate of cogs in a heavenly machine".
Michael was born in Aberdeen and by the age of four began taking dancing lessons at the Seivwright School of Dancing, eventually entering the Royal Ballet School. He became the school's star pupil and on leaving was presented with the Ursula Moreton Choreographic Award, giving a strong indication of where his future career might lead. Then in 1979, Michael delivered his first professional shock, moving away from the Royal Ballet and joining the modern dance world of Ballet Rambert.
However, even such a high-profile position couldn't restrain Michael's ambitions, and in 1982, after leaving Rambert, he choreographed his first piece at the London Riverside Studios, where he became resident choreographer. He then spent some time in the USA and France before returning to the UK in 1984 to start Michael Clark and Company. The company was an immediate success, and Michael went on to create highly successful, if controversial works, often provoking disapproval from the established ballet world due to their production design, but nearly always receiving the highest praise for the beauty of their choreography.
Michael went on to win many international commissions, and just as his career was reaching its first peak of success, was interrupted by injury. Perhaps at this point, the world might have expected that Michael would disappear from the dance scene, but through self-determination and help from his close friends, he returned to his old teacher, Richard Glasstone, and started all over again.
Michael's return to choreography was the subject of a BBC documentary, and he went on to deliver a variety of successful productions including the 2003 opening performance of the London Dance Umbrella's 25th anniversary at Sadler's Wells. Then in 2005, he became an Artistic Associate at the Barbican Centre and began a three year project producing a trilogy of work interpreting scores by Igor Stravinsky, which enjoyed their American premiere at the Lincoln Centre in New York in June 2008. In 2009 and 2010 Michael's company toured yet more new work, firstly at the Venice Biennale then in Melbourne Australia.
Again in 2010, the Michael Clark Company was endowed with a residency at the Tate Modern, which allowed visitors to witness the artistic process that enables his innovative choreography. The resulting work was a prologue to a new, multi-facetted, site-specific performance involving movement, light and audio-visual media, created in response to the monumental architecture of the Tate's Turbine Hall, and which had its world premiere on 7 June. Michael Clark has not only brought his dancing and choreography talent to the world's stage, but has had the very process of his creativity and artistry exhibited at the Tate Modern. In doing so, he also joins the world's who's who of contemporary art.
Robert Gordon University
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