Un, dos, tres…responda otra vez was a hugely popular Spanish game show that aired for ten series between 1972 and 2004. In-between quiz rounds, there were dance numbers with extravagant costumes and high energy music. Yos Clark used to watch it every single day with his family growing up in the suburbs of Abidjan, the Ivory Coast’s metropolitan centre.
“It was something I couldn’t miss; I was always in front of my TV waiting for it,” Clark tells me over video chat. He’s in Abidjan now, waiting out visa issues and travel restrictions. He discovered contemporary dance and jazz watching the show, but it was ballet that really caught his attention. “Seeing them evolving through movement and the technicity of it, the aesthetic of it, for me it was just the thing,” he says.
Clark now studies at the KS Dance school in Warrington and is a successful fashion model and photographer. I spoke with him following the release of his latest performance video, The Other Side, which was created in tribute to his late mother.
Growing up, Clark took naturally to dancing and remembers performing the Coupé-décalé, a popular percussive style of dance music in the Ivory Coast. “Before starting ballet, I was much more into that,” he says. “Every time there was music on TV, I was doing the choreography.”
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Attracted to the fluidity and elegance of ballet, Clark started to teach himself through Youtube videos and Facebook groups. His living room became a dance studio, with the dining table pushed back and a chair as the ballet barre. He started uploading photos of his ballet practice and connecting with dancers around the world.
One friend request reached a dance teacher in France who offered to teach him via Skype. The lessons were sometimes a struggle, not least because of network issues and the time difference between France and the Ivory Coast. “We continued those classes for two years […] on and off,” he says.
Another teacher reached out to him on Facebook and he started in-person lessons at a studio in the Ivory Coast. From there, he started to work with a producer and was booked for a show at the Palais des Congrès. “That was literally my first show on stage: it was nerve-wracking to be honest,” he says.
Clark went on to compete in Africa’s Got Talent and earned a scholarship at KS Dance after coming to the attention of the British ambassador. He’s now in his third year and was enjoying the classes before the pandemic and Home Office bureaucracy caused disruption.
Clark relies on a short-term study visa and has to return to the Ivory Coast to reapply. “I received a letter saying that my visa application had been declined and therefore I had 14 days to leave the country. I was trying to audition for a company in Leeds, so this was an additional stress,” he explains.
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“I was meant to do three years but with this visa I was on and off – it was just a nightmare to be honest.” Despite this, Clark is positive about what he has learnt so far:
“I had my first exams – that was a whole new experience. And also, being able to learn different styles – ballet, contemporary, jazz, flamenco – it was really enjoyable,” he says.
Clark’s latest performance piece, The Other Side, was released in February and is dedicated to his mother who passed away in January 2019. “I always wanted to dance about women; what they feel and what they endure,” he says.
His facial expressions in the performance tell a story of pride and sadness. “When I dance, I like to use every single part of me,” he explains. “I like to connect with people – if there’s not connection and you’re just dancing to dance, it’s not going anywhere. It has to be something deeper,” he says.
The outfit Clark wears is just as much part of the performance as his movements. The striking red dress was “just the one to get – the shape of it, I could visualise the way it would move,” he says. “With the shoes, I was thinking that it needs to be something that you’re ready to move in, that you could easily walk in. For me, they looked like shoes for hard working people.”
Clark’s interest in fashion has taken him to London Fashion Week, where he modelled in On/Off’s All Power to the Imagination 2020 campaign film. He also currently works as a dance photographer in the Ivory Coast.
His long-term goal is to open a dance school in the Ivory Coast, but for now, Clark is concentrating on building himself as a dancer and making a name for himself on the international stage.