There’s always a special buzz in any venue where the Hofesh Shechter Company happens to be performing. The average age of the audience drops precipitously; and the level of excitement and expectation rises commensurately.
And so it is at Sadler’s Wells, where Israeli-born, UK-based Hofesh Shechter's latest work, Grand Finale, has just had its UK premiere.
An ambitious commentary on the apocalyptic feel of modern times, Grand Finale includes many of Shechter’s trademark elements: high-energy, strongly rhythmic movement, often incorporating quotes from Middle Eastern folk dance; pulsating percussion, sometimes so loud you feel it vibrate inside your body; a reference to the Jewish holocaust; and undifferentiated dancing for his 10 male and female performers.
New to Shechter’s work are stage sets by Tom Scutt, who is also responsible for the costumes - loose trousers and shirts in neutral colours. Scutt has created a series of large upright rectangular panels, which the dancers themselves move around the stage, creating a variety of areas, and at one point building one of the recurring themes of our modern world: The Wall.
The theme of death is treated most effectively in two particular sequences: one where all 10 dancers launch into a frenzied kind of disco dancing to a pulsating drums beat, blindly and mindless dancing on the edge of the precipice.
Even more powerful is the sequence that brings the first half to a close. Here the panels enclose the dancers in quite a claustrophobic space. They stand still and raise their eyes to heaven as soap bubbles slowly descend like snow, only to disappear as they touch the ground. It’s impossible not to see a reference to a concentration camp; more so when living dancers drag inert ones around in a poignant waltz of death to music played live on stage by a string quintet.
There is no coherent narrative, no right or wrong way of reading this piece. As Shechter himself comments in the programme notes: 'When someone sits and watches the performances, it is about what is happening to them in their head, how they feel.'
Here, then, is what was happening in my head as I sat and watched the performance: there is no doubt that Grand Finale 'has arrived with a bang' as the FT put it after the work’s world premiere in Paris this past summer. Shechter's work is nothing if not an explosion of sound and movement.
Did it, however, in any way further my sense of the modern world, of the chaotic and seemingly apocalyptic nature of so much that surrounds us? Did it cause pangs of anguish in my heart or raise question marks in my mind? Did it hold me enraptured at all times? I can’t say that it did.
Much of Grand Finale is powerful in Shechter’s typical high-octane way. Some of it is rather repetitive. His amazingly energetic dancers are perfectly attuned to his very specific and immediately identifiable brand of choreography. There are many ideas bubbling away throughout this piece; but not all are particularly original and neither does his choreographic language appear to have developed significantly.
|What||Hofesh Shechter, Grand Finale Review|
Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R 4TN | MAP
|Nearest tube||Angel (underground)|
12 Sep 17 – 16 Sep 17, 19:30 Dur.: 2 hours including one interval
|Website||Click here to book via Sadler's Wells website|