Around the nation tonight, Americans will continue to grapple with political division and unrest. But inside the Jewel Box at the National YoungArts Foundation, dancers and audiences will celebrate a unique collaboration of creative forces, with local and international arts groups coming together to create a uniquely Miamian masterpiece.
This evening marks the beginning of the Michael Clark Company’s monthlong residency in collaboration with the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), Miami. Just last December, the new modern art museum launched the series ICA Performs, an annual collaborative series that highlights multidisciplinary works among creatives in different fields. The inaugural performances featured Los Angeles-based artist Erika Vogt and Performa 15, an artistic collective dedicated to commissioning and producing live performances for the 21st Century; this year’s series features an adaptive new work by Scottish choreographer Michael Clark.
The Michael Clark Company, founded in 1984 by the progressive British dancer and choreographer, is one of the foremost leaders in modern dance. Clark, who has performed and shown his works internationally, visited Miami only twice for location scouting before committing to this performance. But once he found the perfect setting within the National YoungArts Foundation’s stained-glassed Jewel Box theater, Clark says, he knew it was the place for his United States debut, which begins tonight and runs through next Monday.
Yet it was ICA Miami that initiated the relationship with the Michael Clark Company. As Alex Gartenfeld, chief curator and deputy director of ICA explains, the series aims to find not only "new scholarships and new commissions and highlight new commissions in Miami, but also to highlight international talent that we feel is in dialogue with this community."
Furthering the three-part collaboration, Gartenfeld says, YoungArts’ mission of nurturing young artists in visual, literary, design, and performance fields falls directly in line with "Michael’s sensitivity to his young dancers, as well as our museum's sense of intergenerational dialogue and context.”
As a result, ICA Performs: Michael Clark Company will feature both new and reworked elements specifically formatted for the intricacies of the Jewel Box and the diversity of Miami’s audiences. Clark himself describes the venue as both "an amazing space” and “an unusual space," a stage that enables him to emphasize the duality of "what you can see and what you can't see."
Parts of the reprised works come from the company’s recent performance at London’s Barbican Centre. Those shows highlighted contemporary dance set to works by French avant-garde composer Erik Satie, David Bowie, and Patti Smith, and the Miami shows will feature the selections set to Smith’s “Land” from her 1975 debut album, Horses. Those performances also included multimedia projected onto screens that will be adapted for YoungArts’ kaleidoscopic setting.
Additionally, the newly composed elements take inspiration from Miami’s colorful and fertile natural surroundings.
"The nature of the way things are here, the way things grow here, that had some influence on the choreography in terms of it becoming more decorative,” Clark says, “or more extravagant.”
He continues, "It's the opposite of where I come from in Scotland. It's quite barren and white, cold, and gray. Miami is kind of the opposite!”
Although Clark himself slyly evades further descriptions of the performance, dancers who have previously worked with the beloved choreographer offer insight. Brittany Baily, who was the YoungArts winner in dance in 2008, worked with the Michael Clark Company at the Tate Modern in London in 2011.
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The New York-based dancer happened to be in Miami last week to participate in the YoungArts Salon Series discussion with Clark, as well as further her own solo project, Shape Dance. Baily, who has studied with Merce Cunningham and performed as part of Marina Abramovic’s retrospective The Artist Is Present at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art, emphasizes Clark’s spontaneity.
"He's completely unpredictable in a graceful way," she says. "I think that he finds value in keeping some degree of uncertainty in the work — not just for the people viewing the work, but also for the people performing the work.”
Still, all three moving pieces that brought this series to fruition — ICA Miami, YoungArts, and the Michael Clark Company — seem to share the same ideas and values of dance and interdisciplinary live performance. As Baily summarizes: "I think we believe in the same thing, in that we love dance. We love dance as a means of communicating with larger audiences and as a personal practice... We understand how we can help one another continue to inspire and express and figure out what it means to use alternative languages for ourselves and how to connect with others."
ICA Performs: Michael Clark Company
7:30 p.m. Thursday, November 17, through Monday, November 21, at the YoungArts Jewel Box at the National YoungArts Foundation, 2100 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. Tickets cost $15. Call 305-901-5272 or visit eventbrite.com.