Published: 11/06/2014 14:16 - Updated: 13/06/2014 16:03

Michael Clark dancer Ben's big step

Ben Warbis in come been and gone by Michael Clark. Picture: Jake Walters
Ben Warbis in come been and gone by Michael Clark. Picture: Jake Walters



DANCING since he was three with 20 hours of classes a week clocked up in his teens, Ben Warbis almost doesn’t need to tell you that for him dancing comes first.

Plucked from the final year of his degree course by maverick dance legend Michael Clark himself, Ben joined the cutting-edge choreographer’s company in 2009.

But his nerve was tested as he was faced with leaving his dance course early to take up what was just a short contract with Clark.

Ben explained: "One of my oldest teachers — who had taught me as a dance scholar when I was 11 – was on the faculty at Studio Centre where I trained and she was also teaching at Michael’s company. During my third year, she became aware he was looking for dancers, so brought me into class as a guest in the Christmas holidays."

Michael invited Ben back and watched him a couple of times, but though Ben’s course didn’t finish till the summer, one February Friday afternoon Michael offered him work.

"It was a big decision," recalled Ben.

"He only offered a trial contract for working on the creation of the new show – it became come been And gone.

"So it was a test and there was every chance that at the end he might not want to keep me and I wouldn’t get my degree and had no guarantee the school would let me back.

"But I took the job on the Monday!"

Ben has never looked back and as well as becoming a permanent member of the Michael Clark Company, he also got his degree with first class honours.

Now he is on tour with the follow-up to come been And gone, Michael’s latest triple bill animal/ vegetable/mineral/ which as ever with the choreographer’s work uses a rock-savvy soundtrack.

Come been and gone used David Bowie, Iggy Pop and Lou Reed, animal/vegateble/mineral includes 80s indie name Scritti Politti and music by Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker — who even appeared on stage as a performer in the early days of the piece when it was simply New Piece 2012.

Ben said: "It was very relaxed when it came to dancing with Jarvis."

And he explained that the middle section of the new piece is still growing.

"It’s very short, but Michael is adding to it.

"It’s a progression from the show with Jarvis’s music and Scritti Politti is still involved. The second part is 10 or 12 minutes long now, but it’s going to get longer over the course of the year."

Ben feels an evolving, changing piece has both highs and lows.

"Sometimes it unsettles you if things change — the original way is in your body. But it’s also good because you might have got complacent."

Looking back, Ben says he now knows dancing would always have been his future.

"It wasn’t so much that I wanted to be a dancer, in hindsight there just wasn’t anything else I was going to do. Looking back on how I felt, nothing came before dancing."


Michael Clark Company

Dancer and choreographer Michael Clark was brought up in Aberdeen before training at the Royal Ballet School in London and going on to join Ballet Rambert, working with choreographer Robert Alston. He developed his own choreography creating avant garde pieces such as Hail The New Puritan and I Am Curious Oranj in the 80s, collaborating with designers Charles Atlas, BodyMap and Leigh Bowery and musicians including Wire, The Fall and most recently Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker. He has said in the past "rock is my rock". Though he has suffered from drugs issues and is often dubbed an iconoclast, many see him as a dance prodigy who has gone on to becomea major creative figure in contemporary dance.


Like Michael Clark, Ben — whom one critic said had "an eerie resemblance" to the young Clark – is tall, though at six feet one not overly tall for a male dancer these days.

But it helped him briefly into modelling where he appeared on the cover of Arena Homme, photographed by top fashion photographer Nick Knight.

"I was in make-up for eight hours, longer than the shoot," Ben recalled.

"I had already been dancing for Michael for 18 months when I did that cover and was then approached by a modelling agency, Premier.

"But a change at the top of the men’s division brought in a replacement who didn’t empathise with my career.

"I was told that I needed to lose weight on my cheek and neck and things like that. And because I’m a dancer, I have a broad back and bigger shoulders than they wanted – bigger hips and thighs too, so that didn’t suit the high fashion stuff which is why I never really worked on the catwalk.

"I wasn’t thin but I also wasn’t Adonis — I was neither!" the dancer laughed.

"The clothes didn’t hang well because I had lumps in all the wrong places!"

But he has no regrets about his big career choice back in 2009.

"I would never think I had made the wrong decision!

"So many of my friends aren’t dancing any more or graduated from dance school and couldn’t find work — or never got work at all.

"I’m so glad to be working for this company."

The Michael Clark Company performs animal/vegetable/mineral in the Empire Theatre at Eden Court today (Friday) at 7.30pm.

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