Hail The New Puritan is a part biographical film from 1986 portraying the Michael Clark dance company, and it’s honestly one of my favourite films. It cheers me up, inspires me, makes me laugh and I’d recommend anyone to watch it, even just a few scenes, or to look into some of Michael’s work and the collaborations he did with artist Leigh Bowery. The last new scenes, are you lonesome tonight? Not any more now I’ve just witnessed some totally bonkers but brilliant things and it is just so inspiring. I don’t dance, I can’t dance but this makes me want to, it makes me want to get up and run around London, paint in bright colours, smile, wear large underpants….
The film starts very oddly, reflecting on the whole thing in general, with a dream of Michaels, people eating fruit, people talking. Within it there is some amazing dance, the choreography is stunning and so different from all the prim and proper ballet I’m used to watching and hearing about.
Michael has Scottish roots so it is a mix of ballet and Scottish dancing, and just wild movements. What I like is that it can be copied; I said I can’t dance, but his stuff is just so cute I want to try it out. There’s a scene near the end in a club where Michael is directing everyone there to do a dance with him (that I’m learning). The costumes are spectacular, the sets designed by 80s artists of the time are as random as the dances. One of my favourites features giant egg plants- literally eggs growing from trees.
The music he danced to is great, The Fall did a lot of the music, and there’s such a mix. About half way in, Michael is being interviewed and the rest of his small company are dancing in the background and he just gets up, and effortlessly joins in to a really funny dance to “Shout” by The Shangri-Las. It all seems so random and mixed up, but there’s a perfection to it.
Michael himself is such a sweetie in the things he says and even wears. Travelling through London he’s chased by a group of fans in his tshirt and kilt combination which he later notes makes him look “like a school mistress”!!!!!
With artist and friend Leigh Bowery
His company dancing at The Tate, 2011
The above scene is the most bonkers ever, where he meets his friends and fellow artists for a bit who have designed his costumes and sets. I can’t believe this was everyday life for “artists” in the 80s!!!
From being chased to his fans to going through a choreographed routine to a busy nightclub (yes I have taught myself it from his actions), Michael seems so loved. Since the film and what upsets me a lot was his decline into drugs which saw him leave London and return to Scotland, almost penniless having had to sell off all his costumes and dance space. Luckily (though now semi-retired and mainly teaching) he did get back up with help (including help from Kate Moss, who later danced with his company for Alexander McQueen) and he’s now back in business, I hope one day I get to see him or his company dancing properly, he honestly is a perfect baby angel and if you’re looking for something inspirational or just completely bonkers but loveable look at some links below…
The pants dance
The weirdest getting changed scene ever. "Punk's dead!"
Michael Clark Dance Company, Tate Modern, review
I really hope someone out there is interested in this post and has a look at some of his work, he is amazing.