Review: Hofesh Shechter in In Your Rooms/Uprising: The Choreographer’s Cut at Roundhouse

Performance: 27 & 28 Feb 09
Reviewed by Mary Kate Connolly - Monday 2 March 2009

Hofesh Shechter, 'The Choreographer's Cut' Roundhouse, 27-28 Feb. Photo: Ben Rudick

A strange violence and force permeates Hofesh Schechter’s Uprising and *In Your Rooms*, redolent perhaps of the choreographer’s attitudes towards conflict and the eradication of individualism which can occur in the face of combat and political struggle. Enlisted for compulsory military service in Israel at the age of eighteen, Shechter seemed to confront a battle for freedom and artistic expression in an institutionalised and brutal environment early in his life. Not surprising then, that a fog of menace and oppression hangs thick in the air of these two works, lending drama, and an incendiary tension. Throughout, an uprising does indeed feel imminent, ready to explode.

Shechter’s rise has seemed swift. Arriving in Britain six years ago, he danced initially for fellow Israeli choreographer Jasmin Vardimon before setting up his own company in 2003. The cult following he has garnered among the nation’s teens for his choreography in Skins Channel 4 series was clearly evident in the throngs of teeny boppers crammed into the standing pit of the Roundhouse on Friday night. From the dry ice filling the auditorium to the animated chatter floating upwards from the mobbed standing area, the message was clear: this was an event, not just a show, and it was going to be fresh, raw and utterly hip. Shechter did not disappoint.

The lights rose to reveal the orchestra seemingly suspended 20 feet up in the ether, pounding out a throbbing, swirling soundtrack (composed by Shechter himself). After a time, a line of men strode purposefully forward to assume frozen pirouette poses, and following this brief nod in the direction of the classical dance heritage, embarked on a journey so savage, tireless and swift that it was dizzying to watch. Uprising saw the men square up to one another, break away, form factions, jostle, sprint, hug and brawl. It seemed that even the relentless flux and repetition, reminiscent of a military drill, was no match for the straining, rangy spirits that seemed to claw their way outwards from the stark, convulsive movement. Shechter’s nod perhaps, to the individual bubbling beneath the mob. Both Uprising and In Your Rooms explored the dynamics of groups clinging together and scattering apart, all the while searching for an identity, a path.

At times contemporary dance seems to display a penchant for angst-ridden flailing. Shechter does extremely good angst ridden flailing; precise, electric and chilling. The skill of his choreography is to use deceptively simple movements to profound effect. In Your Rooms sees men and women rhythmically punching their fists upwards in a symbol of unified defiance, evocative of an aged Communist propaganda tableau. The clarity and energy burning in every sinew of every dancer during this movement is electrifying, and demonstrates the calculation and skill which Shechter applies to each miniscule detail. There is humour and irony snaking through these pieces too, seen for example in the awkward male bonding in Uprising, which begins with hearty back slapping only to escalate rapidly into misunderstanding and fisticuffs. One brave soul ventures forward from the throng in In Your Rooms clutching a sign that reads ‘Don’t Follow Leaders’. It is not long before he flips the sign to display the words ‘Follow Me’. Both these moments lighten the mood without detracting from their biting social comment; proof of Shechter’s wry humour and multi-dimensional style. This was furthered by the mock serious curtain call in which men and women strode solemnly forward, turned to face the back of the stage and wiggled their hips provocatively, to the delighted whoops and wolf whistles of an enthusiastic crowd. Finally Shechter himself emerged, swamped in a long haired wig, before whipping it off to take a dignified bow, a gesture which seemed to say ‘you don’t quite know me yet…I’m only just getting started…’

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