I am a self-confessed Hofesh Shechter obsessive.
Sparked primarily by my involvement in the U.Dance Ensemble, a youth dance company of which he was the artistic director, I find myself in a position where as soon as someone mentions his name I am unequivocally alert. Being able to witness and participate in his creative process is something that as of yet has failed to be matched as one of the greatest experiences in my life. However, it is probably important to point out that the U.Dance Ensemble has the upper hand on anything I have done recently as it marked the first serious thing I have done in my (hopefully successful future) career.
Another reason why I love him so, is because I find his work so thrilling, I feel rocked to my very core. I sit with a grin plastered to my face, almost leaping out of my seat as I watch his work. In comparison to my post about Cedar Lake’s lack of grit, Hofesh is a menage of intoxicating sights, sounds and emotions. They say that when you watch dance, your body has a physical reaction to it- your muscles react almost as if you’re actually dancing along. When I watch Hofesh this physical reaction is amplified to such a point that I feel actively tired when the piece has finished.
Naturally, I jumped at the chance to see his new work ‘Sun’ at Sadler’s Wells this half term. Using the guise as a present for my best friend’s birthday next week, it was really an opportunity to feed my obsession, to get my Hofesh fix (sorry Charlotte). Following the premier on Wednesday (I saw it on Friday), I saw a lot of mixed feedback on the twittersphere, and floating around on the internet. Sure, I accept that Hofesh may not be to everyone’s taste. He likes to play his music VERY loud, to keep the stage so dark it’s often difficult to see the dancers and to provoke political questioning, but I find it difficult to criticise him conclusively.
To practically sell out Sadler’s Wells every night, to gain funding to make yet another new work and to be asked to direct the Brighton Festival in 2014 is surely indicative of his success. You can argue that there are people that are better, but you can’t deny that he is good at what he does. In a similar way, it is easy to compare ‘Sun’ to his other work, but to conclude that it is the same as everything else he has ever done in my opinion is inaccurate. He has his style, yes. You can’t fail to spot a Hofesh piece, but in ‘Sun’ you can really identify differences to his other work.
Constantly with a sense of anticipation, ‘Sun’ succeeds on keeping you on the edge of your seat. Aided by the brilliant lighting design (shout out to lighting designer Lee Curran), where a grid of single lightbulbs are suspended from the ceiling, the stage alternates between being bathed in a warm glow that lends itself to the title of the work, and pitch black: presenting one of the many pairs of opposites in ‘Sun’. The piece is punctuated by pauses of darkness, bordering on too long in duration that leaves the audience almost uncomfortably waiting. Likewise, the music can go from virtually deafening to utter silence, with such an eerie sensation that like the lighting it has the capacity to be entirely uncomfortable.
Shechter’s natural wit, like the use of opposites, was woven into the piece and can be seen through the use of the cardboard cut outs of the sheep bouncing along, the dancers wearing huge fluffy white wigs and the use of swaying conga lines that cross the stage. However, don’t be fooled into thinking that ‘Sun’ is a light-hearted piece about the sun and opposites between light and dark, noise and silence. Rife with political tension, the dancers construct images of violence, reiterated by piercing screams both on stage and from the front row and the sinister shout ‘the wolf’s behind you’ from one of the dancers on stage. A statement that actually provoked audience members to look over their shoulders- I tell no lie. Without the use of Hofesh’s wit and erratic switching between lighting and sound, the themes of the piece would be perhaps too heavy for public consumption. A tool that prevents the audience from dwelling too long on these images of violence, and propels them into questioning what will happen next.
It seemed rude not to attend the post-performance talk after the show, and I knew that I was eager to learn more about Shechter’s creative process and ideas behind the piece. One thing that I found particularly powerful from the post-performance talk and would like to highlight was Hofesh’s affirmation that ‘contemporary’ means now. Hence, when someone observed that there was a variety of different styles of dance within the piece, he replied that he takes inspiration from everything and anything that is happening now- something that can been seen in his choreography, and results in that his work is undeniably contemporary (or so he hopes).
I loved ‘Sun’, and although I have an unsurprising bias towards his work, I truly feel that his work is thrilling, fast paced and very current. Hofesh openly admitted that ‘Sun’ is a work in progress, but I strongly encourage everyone to watch the piece as soon as possible. Regardless of whether you’ve seen Hofesh’s work before or not, ‘Sun’ is an eye opener. A piece, that benefits from further viewing and in that further enjoyment, I know that I will try my hardest to see it again.