With its title lifted from a Patti Smith track, to a simple rock’n’roll… song sees music, along with dance, span the gamut of genres, from classical, through pop, to… yes, a simple rock’n’roll… song.
Opening to the sound of a piano recording by Erik Satie, our dancers are dressed in bold, tight-fitting, monochrome costume, their moves mimicking the pounding black-and-white keys. Satie’s prelude Féte donnée par des chevaliers normands en l’honneur d’une jeune demoiselle (phew!) strangely translates to ‘The feast given by the Norman Knights to honour a young girl’ but in this particular case, it appears a visual feast is being given to a broad audience that appreciates classic music but with modern moves.
As the strains of Féte build and the ebony and ivory notes get faster and faster, so do does the dancing, the artists themselves one moment mirroring one another in groups, the next quickly but consciously constructing choreography of their own.
The striking instrumental climaxes to make way a trilogy of Patti Smith songs from her perennial Horses LP, and while Smith’s brash poetry booms from the speakers, dancers take individual turns in turning her lyrics into expressive motion. Some of it is postmodern and quirky, some of it is classic in that ‘ballet’ kind of way. One thing is for certain: all of it is brilliant.
But the pièce de résistance, for this reviewer particularly, is the third act, an ensemble piece that ropes in the bawdy lines and brilliant strains of four very different David Bowie songs, arranged in an order as though somehow they were just meant to be. This modern ‘tribute section’ (of sorts) kicks off with one of Bowie’s last-ever single releases, the 10-minute epic that is Blackstar. But just when you think it may have to be edited to make way for three more tracks, no, it’s evident choreographer and dancers all want to pay absolute respect to the genius of Bowie. From its ‘moondust-twinkling-down-from-space’-sounding keys at the start to its spooky, occult soundtrack-like climax, Blackstar is delivered in full glory.
It is followed by the lesser known alt-pop track Future Legend, then the fairly freaky Chant of the Ever Circling Skeletal Family, and finally by the more familiar Aladdin Sane. It’s like the dancers are not only paying tribute to the music legend, but might just be a part of the ‘cult’ aesthetic he created in some of his greatest videos (remember the strange curtsy-like dance moves in Fashion that strangely reappear in the clip for Blackstar?).
Indeed, all three acts of to a simple rock’n’roll… song appear to pay homage to the artists who originally delivered the music and songs. This is dance that makes you not only feel fascinated by the immense talent performing in front of you on stage, but makes you recall musical artistry at its absolute greatest.
The Michael Clark Company have done us, and a bunch of strange-but-brilliant musos, very proud. Antonino Tati
Part of the Perth Festival program, ‘to a simple rock’n’roll… song’ is on at His Majesty’s Theatre until February 17.
Tickets are available through www.perthfestival.com.au.