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Hofesh Shechter Company

'Political Mother - The Choreographer's Cut'

by David Mead

July 12, 2011 -- Sadler's Wells Theatre, London, UK

After the successful restaging of his “Uprising”/”In your rooms” programme at the Roundhouse two years ago, Hofesh Shechter has given the same treatment to his worldwide 2010 hit “Political Mother”. In “Political Mother - The Choreographer’s Cut” the original ten dancers and eight musicians has grown to sixteen and twenty-four respectively, with Shechter again appearing himself as The Politician. And in an attempt to emulate the rock concert atmosphere even more, he took out half the stalls at Sadler’s Wells to create a large standing area.

The work now opens with a section of Verdi’s “Requiem”, played live by some newly-added classical musicians, before a burst of static cuts them off in mid-phrase and the rock band kicks in. If the tiered musicians were impressive before they are even more so now. Perched on four levels at the back of the stage they rise into the air as high as the eye can see. As a piece of staging, ‘impressive’ is an understatement. Shechter’s additions add new layers to the music itself too. The volume is about the same, but the extra instruments make it richer and deeper. It is a tidal wave of sound. It does engulf the whole theatre. But it also serves to emphasise the quieter passages and moments of silence.

There is some new choreography, although many of the changes are little more than adding extra dances to a scene, the actual steps remaining largely unchanged. Shechter’s use of ritual, Israeli folk-dance influenced movement and lighting still creates a huge spectacle. A ranting dictator appears above, his words almost indecipherable. He is followed later by a rock singer and a general. Below, the dancers, all hunched and shuffling, often move like a herd, as if in a trance. The group is as one, all blindly following one another. The movement vocabulary is extremely limited, which only adds to the power and emotional pull. Shechter seems to be asking whether there is really any difference in the way people all too often follow leaders, of whatever persuasion.

But unlike Shechter’s musical changes, his choreographic revisions sometimes fare less well. Where he has added complexity, for example by having constantly shifting groups, the changes take away from the power of the single mass. When they were moving in unison there seemed to be far more individual variation than previously, and when he tries to fit sixteen into a space previously occupied by ten, it sometimes looked too crowded. On one particular occasion, when the dancers were attempting to work in a single circle, they were clearly fighting for space. The last five minutes, though, a sort of very dimly lit rewind of everything that has gone before, is as beautiful and affecting as ever.

Anyone who did not see the original will be blown away. And, despite a few reservations, anyone who did see it will still be impressed. This is dance that brings together all the theatrical elements: movement, music, design, lighting...in equal measure. Take any one away and you diminish the whole. And that is how dance should be.

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