Review By Hannah Fredriksson
Hofesh Shechter is an Israeli London-based choreographer renowned for his contemporary, rock and roll performances that have taken the U.K. by storm. STRUT Dance have recreated two of his high-energy works featuring a cast of home-grown performers in Hofesh In The Yard – the yard in question being the courtyard at the State Theatre Centre of WA.
As we entered the venue we were invited to stand anywhere we like in the courtyard, be it up in the gallery or even right up against one of the three free sides of the vast square stage. The freedom to view the show from various angles is refreshing. I took my place along the right hand side of the stage, eager to see the action up close.
The audience was buzzing with anticipation – the show was billed to start at 9pm though it actually started closer to 9:30, but once smoke began to fill the stage and the festoon lights overhead faded this thought was immediately forgotten.
The first act in tonight’s double bill is called ‘Uprising’, a recreation of Shechter’s 2006 seminal work. Seven men in earth toned cargo pants and long-sleeved shirts in various colours entered the stage and hit the ground running (almost literally) with explosive masculinity. Uprising feels primal, exploring conflict and violence in a social climate where it’s not encouraged to express feelings as a man. You can see the men hurt. You can see them unite. You can see them trying to pat each other on the back a little bit too hard and erupt into a violent brawl.
The soundtrack for Uprising is urban with prog-rock influence, providing great momentum and supporting the moments where the dancers were light on their feet like boxers or primitively traversing the stage almost on all-fours. At times the music sounded like swelling industrial static and these moments were accompanied by synchronised convulsing. The performance ends with one of the dancers held aloft with a red flag in a brief tableaux reminiscent of the well known imagery from Iwo Jima, set to a cheeky snippet of classical music in direct contrast with the contemporary music and high energy that made up the rest of the performance.
The next act was called tHE bAD. This performance involved ten dancers, five men and five women; though unlike the first performance the gender of the dancers was not really an influencing factor – it seemed that any group of ten dancers could have been chosen to perform this show.
The performers were dressed in gold skintight suits, simultaneously feeling very revealing and also revealing nothing at all. The performance began with almost android-like synchronicity, before busting out into dubstep and hiphop beats. Being as close to the stage as I was, during some of the quieter moments I could hear their costumes squeaking and even the dancers heaving breaths.
The choreography utilised every corner of the stage – the dancers frequently came right up to the edge and were able to look the audience members in the eye, sometimes staring them down in almost haka-like intimidation, and later on encouraging them to cheer and clap along like we were in a mosh pit for a gig.
I noticed through both performances that Shechter enjoys juxtaposing his urban and edgy compositions with some classical elements that almost seem unnaturally tame and refined compared to the previously raw, expressive choreography.
STRUT Dance have brought the explosive energy of Hofesh Shechter’s choreography to Perth Festival. Excellent after-dinner viewing, I recommend getting as close to the stage as you can.
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