deGeneration

Hofesh Shechter
Shechter Junior
Stratford Circus Arts Centre

Hofesh Shechter Company: deGeneration performed by Shechter Junior Credit: Victor Frankowski. 2015
Hofesh Shechter Company: deGeneration performed by Shechter Junior Credit: Victor Frankowski. 2015
Hofesh Shechter Company: deGeneration performed by Shechter Junior Credit: Victor Frankowski. 2015

As part of the unstoppable Hofesh Shechter’s #HOFEST—a four week season that sees his work performed at venues across London—is deGeneration, the showcase for Shechter’s apprenticeship company, Shechter Junior. The company offers eight dancers at the start of their careers the opportunity to train and perform alongside company dancers, tour around Europe and, vitally, be paid for doing so.

In deGeneration, Shechter has taken the opportunity to revisit some rarely seen works from his early choreographic career. The company opens with one of these, Cult, and even here Schechter’s signature style is in full force.

The deep, robotic tones of an intrusive voice over, a regular feature in Shechter’s choreography, asks the question "What is important?" Its suggested answer, "something to fight for, something to live for, something to die for" is a theme that seems to carry through the evening’s triple bill.

In Cult, the emotions of that answer resound through the dancers’ hunched, thrown movements, whether they are dancing in near perfect unison or alone beneath the glow of a solitary spotlight. Both movement and lighting are distinctly Shechter and, as a relatively short work, watching Cult is like having a capsule of everything that has come to personify Shechter’s style presented before you.

In Fragments, another early work, the movements become more fluid and expansive. Danced by Kenny Wing Tao Ho and Ayelet Nadav, the movements possess a greater sensitivity, which imbues Fragments with a very natural, human quality.

As the relationship between the dancers plays out, we see the difficulty of connecting with another; a strange friction between longing for companionship and maintaining one’s status as an individual. It’s a quality helped by Shechter’s touch of humour—just as the couple’s prospects look far from hopeful, strains of Monty Python’s "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" drift over Shechter’s self-composed soundtrack, raising an appreciative laugh from the audience.

The final work of the evening, Disappearing Act, brings the dancers of Shechter Junior together. The work plays with ideas of unity and isolation; individual dancers repeatedly split off from a close packed group to dance alone, before re-joining their companions.

It’s a repetitive theme highlighted by a finely crafted use of lighting which allows the dancers to disappear into darkness—then re-appear where you least expect them. This brilliant design provides a path to follow through what is, at times, a monotonous onslaught of Shechter’s physical, highly stylised movement—at least when it comes at the end of a triple bill.

As the pulsating beat of the music pushes the dancers of Shechter Junior onwards, their energy and commitment to Shechter’s style is clear—you could just as easily be watching a performance by the main company. deGeneration offers a strong selection of works but what is most compelling is that these dancers have invested body and soul in Shechter’s vision.

If the apprenticeship strand of Hofesh Shechter Company continues as it has begun, then we will surely be seeing many talented dancers pass through Shechter Junior in the years to come.

Reviewer: Rachel Elderkin