Political Mother is much more complex in many respects; it tackles several subjects and layers of meaning and brings different worlds and realities onto the stage,” explains Shechter from the other end of the line, in a soft voice that contrasts with his energetic work. “The show comes together through the montage of these clashing worlds.”
For the artist, dance is about energy and extremes: from darkness to over-exposed light, from throbbing harmonies to the unloading of sound, from liberating dance to the alienation of the masses. Furious and incarnate, the production alternates solos/duets and ensemble scenes in their fullest force. This is accompanied continually with bracing, even booming music, somewhere between dirty rock and Middle Eastern harmonies, which he composes himself in dialogue with the musicians who will perform it onstage.
“It's not a philosophical piece,” he warns, “it's dance, so it always comes down to energy – above all, that of the dancers who represent a group of enthusiastic fans or followers submitted to oppressive diktats.” These issues of power and emulation belong as much to the political arena as the family unit, which is where the title of the piece comes from. 'Political Mother' runs on the ambiguity of the feelings of love and hate, empathy and domination.
“It's interesting to experiment with differences and emotional links and exploring gestural, sound and musical material in relation to all this.”
Beyond the words
Shechter is primarily interested in what we can learn as humans from the raw languages of dance, music and stage performance. What is to be done when the tensions at work in the world do not follow any logic themselves? When we ask him if there is more rage than tenderness in his work, he indicates a desire for balance between the two. The ‘massive chaos’ in his piece is still very much that of a city crushed under the fire of AK-47s. The piece speaks of “destruction to help us focus on the bodies”.
His work nevertheless has nothing to do with war, except perhaps for the radical emotions it brings together and which bombard humans. That said, his native land is, after all, Israel; the centre of an unfathomable geopolitical rift. He also trained at Ohad Naharin's Batsheva Dance Company, which he still aligns himself with today.
His dance bears its mark, with the pronounced influence of Wim Vandekeybus (who he worked alongside at the Batsheva): physically powerful, tragic in its exultation, emanating from latent underlying socio-political preoccupations that are never manifested in a logical or literal way. Though there are a few fragments of text throughout 'Political Mother', he uses them only “as an echo”.
The rise of Hofesh Shechter has been fast. Trained in dance and music in Israel, he arrived in London in 2002 after a time spent in Paris. He choreographed the duet 'Fragments' in 2004 at The Place theatre, where he became Associate Artist. It was immediately successful and was extended into a tour. He then choreographed 'Cult', followed by two pieces shown here in 2009. Here he is again, a handful of choreographies – and several tours – later. Are you ready for another electroshock?
Born...out of a drum loop.
What came first, the choreography or the music? Hofesh Shechter, familiar with both dance and percussion, might well answer both.
“The music very much defines the energy and structure of the piece; it is always strongly linked to the choreography,” he explains, insisting that in his piece 'Political Mother', the musicians are among the 'characters' onstage and contribute to the process of emotional provocation at play.
In the foreword to the press kit signed by Shechter, he explains his creative process in great detail – to-ing and fro-ing between the two arts – and emphasises his “passion for low frequencies”.
The work is born out of an initial drum loop – very freely inspired by a groove by Peter Gabriel – that is both obsessive and inexorable. This is amplified with Egyptian acoustics, followed by strings. All this is finally performed by a bassist, five drummer/guitarists and a percussionist.