Hofesh Shechter & Friends

Hofesh Shechter Company
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Hofesh Shechter Company Credit: Ben Rudick
Hofesh Shechter Company

Manchester's newest arts centre isn't fully open—there are workmen clearly visible through some of the windows—but it has started a few trial events in its theatres and cinemas before the grand opening on 21 May.

The main theatre is inaugurated by renowned Israeli choreographer Hofesh Shechter in a dance pot pourri titled Hofesh Shechter & Friends, although the man himself doesn't perform on this occasion. The evening consists of two dance pieces (one old and one brand new), a band and a club night.

The opening piece, Fragments, was Shechter's first choreographed work from 2003. As always, the music was composed by the choreographer, but does have the amusing programme credit for additional music by J S Bach and Eric Idle.

Performed by Shechter Junior (the new apprentice company) dancers Ayelet Nadav and Kenny Wing Tao Ho, this hypnotic piece shows a couple in various stages of a relationship, drifting off and waking together, tiring of one another's annoying habits. It's a nice little piece, well-danced and accessible.

Following this, tHE bAD is part two of Shechter's barbarians trilogy, danced by the main company in skin-tight gold body suits—making them appear naked when they first appear in the half-light. They group closely with synchronised, hunched-shouldered moves, appearing like late-night dancers in a night club against pulsing club beats, which turn into Baroque music with moves to match, and possibly something more traditionally eastern European.

Then it all comes to a stop with one of the dancers asking for our forgiveness that this part isn't very well-rehearsed, and then going into a speech about freedom before a noisy finale.

Shechter talks a lot about instinct, feeling and "the gut" and rarely about character, story or meaning, and so this is how his piece must be judged. His music pulses and throbs very loudly with a particularly prominent bass that really does punch you in the chest and vibrate through your seat to produce that "gut" feeling.

Dance, though, cannot produce that physical effect to a mere observer, and so for me, although it is a fascinating piece with some incredible physicality and synchronicity from the dancers, it became a little long and repetitive.

After the interval, the band 72% Morrissey (I've no idea why the name, and nothing they played gave any clue) plays a short set consisting largely of metal-influenced noisy guitars and drums—with the bass drum turned up to 11 to really whack the audience with every beat—with the occasional ambient break.

The main effect of the music on the opening night was to reduce the audience by about a third as many in the audience couldn't cope with what was described as "some of the darkest music the band has written to date". It really amounts to humourless, vocal-less heavy metal with a definite lack of bass other than from the drummer.

With a lead singer or even some dancers in front of them, the three musicians may have produced something more interesting, but this is all a bit monotonous and samey.

On the opening night, dancer Maëva Berthelot acted as DJ for a club night, but that was a little too much for me these days.

Certainly an interesting piece to open the new venue that promises much from both this collaboration and collaborations with other innovative, modern performing artists for the future.

Reviewer: David Chadderton

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