CriticalDance Forum

Hofesh Shechter Company
Page 1 of 1

Author:  David [ Thu Jul 15, 2010 10:51 am ]
Post subject:  Hofesh Shechter Company

Political Mother
Hofesh Shechter Company
Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London; July 14, 2010

It begins in silence. A solitary Eastern warrior impales himself on his sword. And then it explodes in a seat-shaking cacophony of ear-splitting sound that pummels the eardrums for most of the next 70 minutes. It can only be Israeli-born Hofesh Shechter, very much the rising star of choreography in Britain, and whose company is fast becoming the Metallica of contemporary dance.

“Political Mother”, Shechter’s first whole-evening work and which had its world premiere at the Brighton Festival, is a noisy, attack on power. He sends a loud message about indoctrination, and shows us where unquestioning obedience and loyalty can lead - whether to mindless following of some despotic leader; to be prisoners in a dank, forbidding institution; perhaps even to become prisoners of our own minds.

The work is an enigmatic compendium of images and scenes, often full of intense physicality. Shechter’s ten dancers become soldiers, warriors, and most commonly prisoners as they dance to the largely heavy soundtrack composed by Shechter, himself a rock drummer, and performed live by a band on platforms at the back of the stage.

A series of tableaux come and go in the dark - often very dark - and smoky atmosphere as parallels are drawn between the oppressors and the rock music. A dictator, who rants incomprehensibly into a microphone, morphs into the lead singer, both hypnotising their audience. Below the drummers look like military automatons trapped in boxes as they beat out a blazing rhythm. Above, the rest of the band blast away on their electric guitars.

Down on the stage the dancers show what Shechter sees are the results of power on the masses. They shiver, shuffle and lope as if their ankles are shackled, their arms frequently outstretched above their heads as if also in chains. Hunched over, heads bowed and often dressed in ragged prison-like garb and moving in a single-line or circle they look for all the world like part of a demoralised chain gang or inmates in a penal institution or concentration camp. Shechter draws heavily on his folk background, and the choreography is at its best when in the folk-like ensemble sections, but even movement with such joyous roots finishes up looking battered and mindless here.

For all the rawness of the music and much of the dance though, it is the quieter moments that are the most powerful. Around half way through, and in a moment of calm, a piece of Bach gradually surfaces from beneath the rock as the dance becomes almost tender. It seems as if Shechter is saying that even in all the control and oppression humanity survives. Later, and with similar effect, Verdi also puts in an appearance, while another section is backed by the sound of a chill wind.

Despite being powerfully and superbly staged, "Political Mother" leaves an odd sense of leaving one unfulfilled. There is one particular period, about half an hour in, when it starts to drag. I know, I looked at my watch! It is a spectacle, forceful and full of energy, but the music rather drowns out the dance, and tends to hide the fact that Shechter returns to earlier ideas time and again. Having said that, the final section, danced to Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” and that reprises much of what went before, is most striking and the most enduring memory of what, overall, is a startling evening’s dance

“Political Mother” runs at Sadler’s Wells to July 17.
For details of future performances in Galway, Hamburg, Seville, Breda and throughout France; and in the UK at Bracknell, Coventry, Sheffield, Nottingham and Truro see

Author:  David [ Tue Jul 27, 2010 10:51 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Hofesh Shechter Company

Future tour dates

UK autumn tour

Tuesday 28 September: South Hill Park, Bracknell
Monday 4 October: Sheffield Lyceum
Tuesday 12 & Wednesday 13 October: Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry
Tuesday 26 & Wednesday 27 October: Nottingham Playhouse
Monday 22 November: Hall for Cornwall, Truro

International dates

12-15 August: Kampnagel International Festival, Hamburg, Germany
10-12 September: Biennale de la Danse de Lyon, France
21-25 Sept: Theatre de la Ville, Paris, France
1 October: Theatre de Sete, France
20 October: Automne en Normandie Festival, Dieppe, France
21 & 23 October: Automne en Normandie Festival, Vernon, France
5-6 November: Teatro Central, Seville, Spain
26-27 November: Le Grand T, Nantes, France
1-2 December: Opera Lille, France
9 December: Chasse Theatre, Breda, The Netherlands
5-8 May 2011: Mercat de les Flors, Barcelona, Spain

Author:  David [ Sun Oct 17, 2010 12:25 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Hofesh Shechter Company

Political Mother
Hofesh Shechter Company
Warwick Arts Centre, UK; October 12, 2010

by David Mead

Sometimes it pays to take a second look at a dance, in a different place. At Sadler’s Wells, “Political Mother” left me rather unfulfilled. Perhaps it was the huge venue, or the large stage, or both. With some 550 seats, Warwick Arts Centre is not small, but in the more intimate surroundings the work seemed altogether more powerful. Of course matters were helped by the shock element being removed. I knew what was coming. But here, not only was one drawn into events on stage in a way that did not happen previously, the condensing of those events into a smaller space made them more powerful.

It is a very filmic production. Indeed, in a revealing post-performance talk Shechter commented that he sometimes sees himself as much a director as a choreographer. His interests extend way beyond the movement itself. Dance for him is about far more than the steps, a point of view it is difficult to argue with.

While struck by the immense physicality of much of the dance, there are moments of great emotion; times when Shechter makes you stop and think about what is happening on stage and how this relates to the world we all inhabit. One of the really clever things about how he raises issues is that he makes them non-context specific, so everyone can relate to them in their own way.

The dancers were absolutely stunning. They really work as a community held together by close bonds. Although the togetherness and accuracy of the very fast unison sections was amazing, the sense of being as one goes far beyond that.

It is loud. It is powerful and striking. Yet for all the noise, it is still the final section that lingers. In half light the dancers reprise some of what has gone before. It’s a look back and a memory. And the choice of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” as an accompaniment is inspired. If “Political Mother” comes your way, do not miss it.

For details of future performances in the UK and overseas see previous post

Author:  David [ Sat Jul 16, 2011 5:08 am ]
Post subject:  Political Mother - The Choreographer's Cut

'Political Mother - The Choreographer’s Cut’
Hofesh Shechter Company
Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London; July 12, 2011

David Mead

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 has taken 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. 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, and 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 probably 90% is as before, sometimes with the original number of dancers, sometimes featuring the expanded troupe. 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 movement, 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. The added complexity and shifting of separate groups within the whole takes away from the power of the single mass. When then 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... Take any one away and you diminish the whole. And that is how dance should be.

For future Hofesh Shechter Company performances see

This review will appear in the magazine at a later date.

Author:  David [ Mon Oct 03, 2011 1:18 am ]
Post subject:  Uprising, The Art of Not Looking Back

‘Uprising’, ‘The Art of Not Looking Back’
Hofesh Shechter Company
Patrick Centre, Hippodrome Theatre, Birmingham, UK; September 23, 2011

David Mead

Inspired partly by the 2006 protests by youths in Paris, “Uprising” opens with seven men in everyday, mostly khaki coloured T-shirts and trousers, striding determinedly straight towards the audience to an ear-shattering beat. For s second they all stand in retiré, symbolising the formality of society that is about to be challenged. And challenge it they certainly do. Not only is the dance is full of the rawness and energy that characterises much of Shechter’s work, but there’s also an undertone of aggression and tension. Even moments of camaraderie fall apart as simple pats on the back quickly become slaps, and eventually a full-blown brawl.

As is Shechter’s want, much of the dance is into the ground. There is plenty of his trademark shuffling and ape-like loping across the stage. And yet, it is very rhythmic. There is a sense of menace, but equally there’s one of brotherhood and of being as one. Structurally, there is plenty to admire as groups break and reform, and individuals move away and return, Shechter cleverly and constantly changing his partnerships. It’s a surprise when the climax comes almost out of nowhere, one dancer suddenly climbing on the backs of the others to wave a small red flag. It’s a moment of triumph, but the minute standard speaks volumes. Yes, it’s a victory, but one that in the grand scheme of things makes little difference.

After the men it was the turn of the women in “The Art of Not Looking Back”, Shechter’s first all-female work. It opens with his voice, and the stark statement, “My mother left me when I was two.” He screams, before continuing to vocalise his feelings of pain, he adds, “No content can fill a broken structure. It’s like having a bucket with a hole, no matter what you pour in, it’s always empty.” The dance may not have quite the power of “Uprising”, but even so, his thoughts and feelings are clearly embodied in the often anguished choreography. The ladies are certainly as precise as the men earlier. The whole work is a metaphor for despair, and just maybe, for thought of what might have been. Every so often his dancers pause in a ballet pose. They even do some tendus. A couple of times we are shown the formality of group folk dance. We are always quickly jolted back to reality, though, and his earthy and primal dance. Right to the end there is no sense of redemption, no coming to terms with events. “I don't forgive you,” he concludes.

A coda to the evening featured a rewind of both pieces. It not only reminds us of what has happened, but the jerky home movie effect projected somehow adds to the personal nature of proceedings as e events unravel in seconds in front of our eyes.

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Tue Sep 22, 2015 3:22 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Hofesh Shechter Company

David Mead reviews the Hofesh Shechter Company at Sadler's Wells on September 21, 2015 for CriticalDance.


Page 1 of 1 All times are UTC - 7 hours [ DST ]
Powered by phpBB © 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007 phpBB Group