Shechter’s little ego-trip over, 10 dancers in costumes that variously nodded to typical clown outfits – an outsize red corsage here, a ragged ruff there – burst onto the hazy, dimly lit stage to a riotous can-can score. So started Clowns, originally created in 2016, a version of which was last performed in London by the junior company, Shechter II.
Reworked again for this performance, Clowns remains a hard-hitting, intentionally disturbing piece, that contrasts its apparently carefree, skipping continuum of movement with equally carefree violence, augmented by a loud, thumping, percussive soundtrack.
Shechter’s characteristic movement owes a lot to Middle Eastern folk dance, with its 4/4 or 3/4 hopping and skipping, sometimes forming a line, now with arms raised to heaven as if in invocation, now with hunched shoulders, the whole body pushed down by an invisible burden.
The most interesting thing about the Shechter style, though, are not the repetitive steps per se, but the way in which the collective colonises the space, weaving fluid, wave-like patterns.
As they do so, these gleeful clowns, occasionally urged on by a tall ringmaster figure, enact episodes of grotesque cruelty, murdering each other in all manner of ways: synchronised throat slitting, shooting, strangulation… again and again. At once funny and macabre, the intention of Clowns is to illustrate the casual violence of so much present-day entertainment.
After the interval we’re served The Fix, a new, contrasting work that finds Shechter in introspective, not to say maudlin, mood. It is an interesting piece in that its choreography moves radically away from what we’ve come to expect from the choreographer and resorts to the language of contemporary dance.
Clearly informed by the loneliness that characterised the recent, prolonged lockdowns, The Fix is a piece for seven dancers, often no more than silhouettes in a dense penumbra, accompanied by a crescendo of electronic droning.
A first section brings agonisingly slow movement, the dancers' knees in deep bends, their torsos swaying from side to side, faces distorted by grimaces of pain, occasionally letting out non-human grunts.
Eventually they all sit cross-legged in meditative poses, from which, summoned by clear guitar chords, they emerge lighter and find new happiness in touching and hugging. They’ll hug you, too, if you let them, as the finale sees the dancers climb down from the stage and mix with the audience, offering hugs and fist bumps.
It remains to say that Shechter’s dancers are compelling, perfectly attuned to his style, each and everyone a pleasure to watch.
|Review: Hofesh Shechter Company, Double Murder
|Sadler's Wells, Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R 4TN | MAP
14 Sep 21 – 18 Sep 21, 19:30 Dur.: 1 hour 40 mins inc one interval
|£15-£45 (+booking fee)