Review: Hofesh Shechter in Uprising/In Your Rooms at The Place

Performance: 27-31 Mar 07
Reviewed by Lindsey Clarke - Wednesday 28 March 2007

Hofesh Shechter new work

Most conspicuous choreographer of the year so far has to be Hofesh Shechter. Landing a plum spot in the fabulous Sadler’s Wells Sampled programme back in February his breakthrough work *Uprising* reached a massive and diverse audience wafting testosterone into the second circle, featuring seven male dancers (including Hofesh himself) in a playful, driven and compelling exploration of masculinity in action; fighting, playing, breaking down, cracking up, having a laugh, having a rest, running around and grooving to his own industrial soundtrack.

So news of his commission to create a new work and showcase it at three of London’s premier dance venues, taking the opportunity to develop and mature the work along the way, was not much of a surprise and created even more expectation. Tonight the sell out crowd – exceptionally diverse for The Place on a Tuesday – was buzzing and the opening reprise of Uprising only increased the excitement. Crammed back into the intimacy of the Robin Howard Theatre it was even more enjoyable and immediately satisfying than on the expansive Sadler’s Wells stage. The dancers seemed more at home in the cosy, dark space and let rip with many macho “heeurghs”. The rough and tumble of the pseudo guerrilla army crew up close and personal was a heady sight. Shechter has styled a modern, relaxed and urban nightclub influenced style of contemporary dance that looks absolutely perfect in long sleeved t-shirts, baggy pants and socks whilst his athletic aggressive choreography moves nicely into moments of tenderness and yielding. It’s brooding yet laced with humour; one group therapy back-slapping moment that descends into a full-on ruck is received particularly well. The middle section still seems weak but that hardly mattered. The audience loved it and left for the interval energised and eager for the main event, still to come.

Shame then, that the eagerly awaited first night of In Your Rooms fell a bit flat. It felt like watching a poor sequel. Reminders of Uprising were everywhere; from the combat themed costume to Shechter’s homemade industrial soundtrack, the overriding aggressive, undirected masculinity down to the repetition of motifs and movement from the former work. An over-reliance on briefly lit tableaux in the opening sections seemed designed to evoke taut emotion through carefully constructed stills, yet it verged on tedious and the darkness was disengaging for an audience who’d endured an overly long interval and was eager to be wowed again.

In Your Rooms, in this first incarnation, has a cast of nine, featuring four female dancers but the women were so underused you wonder why he bothered. They were either absorbed into the rampantly male ensemble work or embodied gender stereotypes of calm, or emotional support. Or they got to represent emotional drag, leaping onto the men’s backs in acts of desperation. So frustrating to see such excellent dancers unable to shine – it’s as if Shechter is attempting to reproduce himself on stage through his dancers and not allowing his movement to translate across their bodies and each other. His method works in Uprising because he’s the leader of the gang, but here it renders the choreography repetitious and awkward.

The piece is apparently about the difficulty of communicating and coping in this chaotic modern world. He represents it in a disorientating, dislocating and depthless way but doesn’t seem to have anything to say. In the ultimate moment of the piece communication is a breathless snog.

If this ambitious commission is about allowing an artist’s work to mature over six months, then Shechter’s got a lot of room for growth.

See expanded versions of In Your Rooms at the QEH (4 & 5 May) & Sadler’s Wells (28 & 29 Sep) later this year…

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