Dancing With Jarvis Cocker: A Member Of The "Who's Zoo" Troupe Tells All

Judy McGuire
Editor's note: This weekend, Jarvis Cocker performed at the Whitney Museum in his Relaxed Muscle guise as part of the choreographer Michael Clark's "Who's Zoo" residency. The performance brought together dancers both trained and amateur, and Seattle Weekly's Dategirl/The Official Book Of Sex, Drugs, And Rock And Roll Lists author Judy McGuire was one of the lucky people who got a crash course in dance. In honor of Cocker's band, Pulp, beginning its two-night run at Radio City Music Hall this evening, we got her perspective on being involved in the performance.

We were called "zombies" and "klutzes" by the Post and compared to an "encroaching plague" by Gia Kourlas at the Times, but the reality is, we were sculptors, writers, lawyers (okay, only one), painters, trendspotters (again, only one), entry-level assistants, actors, students, filmmakers, bookmakers, art dealers and historians, and the un/under-employed. We were the "non-dancer" element in choreographer Michael Clark's "Who's Zoo" residency at the Whitney Biennial.

Why would non-dancers be part of a dance performance? Well, I never really got a firm answer to that, but I've been a fan of Clark's since I saw a documentary about his company—including the late Leigh Bowery—dancing to the Fall back in the '80s. So when I heard they were looking for volunteers I signed on immediately. The only requirement was that one had to be able to sit down on the floor and get up quickly. I might not be able to entrachet, but I sure can stand up.

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Live: Relaxed Muscle Gets Real At The Whitney

Who's Zoo? feat. Relaxed Muscle
Whitney Museum of American Art
Saturday, April 7

Better than: Another Monday morning.

The Scottish choreographer Michael Clark's body of work has been about marrying opposites—underscoring his works with the music of the Fall and David Bowie, mingling professional dancers with amateurs onstage. In his just-completed residency at the Whitney Biennial, Clark continued those themes with Who's Zoo?, an abstract, yet charged performance set to songs by Pulp and Relaxed Muscle, two bands led by the singer/songwriter/DJ/author/all-around artistic overachiever Jarvis Cocker.

Pulp (whose reunion tour makes stops at Radio City tomorrow and Wednesday) is florid and expansive, creating anthems out of situations both small and grim; best known here for its withering putdown of class tourism "Common People," the band's last three albums (Different Class, This Is Hardcore, and We Love Life) are absolute treasures, chronicling the painful aging of not just Cocker and his bandmates but of a generation burned out on the hedonism it embraced if not wholeheartedly, then at least willingly enough to indulge in more than their fair share of excesses. Relaxed Muscle—which released one album, A Heavy Night With... (Rough Trade), in 2003—isn't Pulp's polar opposite, but it's much more suited for a club basement than a Glastonbury headlining set; while it retains Cocker's trademark wit, its songs are bare-bones, riding on the barely disguised erotic energy coursing throughout them as much as their music. "Sexualised," in which Cocker sneeringly reels off a list of those parts of the world that erotically charged (basically, everything ever) over grinding guitars and a relentless dance beat, probably sums up their world view best.

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