U.K.-based choreographer Hofesh Shechter says when you go to a contemporary dance show, you have no idea what you are going to see
This September, when UK-based choreographer Hofesh Shechter and his dance company come to India on tour, they will be performing the acclaimed piece Political Mother, his first full-length piece which premiered in 2010 and has been performed across Australasia, United States, Asia, and across Europe.
“It’s a loud, contemporary show. But it doesn’t exactly have one theme. It deals with the way people are responding to a social power. You can see figures like politicians, rock stars, army generals and how people respond to them emotionally. So in a way it looks at the power culture, the culture of leaders and being led and whether people like being led, whether they hate it, fight it, go with it or enjoy it, ”, says Hofesh, who was in India recently to prepare for his tour as well as conduct workshops organized by the British Council and Attakalari.
The piece works with imagery, description, personal experience and music, with four electric guitars and drummers. The music, like in his other pieces, has been written by Hofesh, who says he is drawn to music is because he experiences strong things when he listens to it.
“It is time consuming and demanding, but when it’s finished, it feels total and complete. Music is so connected to dance,” he says.
“We live in a kind of world where words have a lot of meaning but sometimes I feel it can be confusing, you don’t experience strong and pure things. Whereas, I felt, through music and dance you can experience the world in a pure way. Perhaps it has a mysterious power, it’s difficult to explain. It makes me connect to people. I feel privileged to go around the world, meet people and share all these feelings with them.”
Every time he sets out to create new work, says the dancer-turned choreographer, he starts off by writing what he thinks.
“I just empty my head, of what bothers me, what interests me, whatever is there around me and what I am trying to deal with. That way, I feel the work will be honest and interesting for people around me.”
From there on, he starts to make music that will create the right atmosphere for what he is thinking about. “I will then start to make movements, to understand its vocabulary. The last bit is going to the studio for a few months with the dancers and working everyday, working hard trying to purify and focus these ideas and see where they take me.”
Hofesh, who has previously worked with the Batsheva Dance Company, says he always felt like he wanted to create something. “At some point, being a dancer wasn’t enough. I felt like I was living other people’s dreams.”
He finds contemporary dance to be an immediate art form, connected to what’s happening and most importantly, it has not yet been totally defined.
“It’s a developing art form, and still not as accepted as classical music. But it’s a free art form. When you go to a contemporary dance show, you have no idea what you are going to see. It can really surprise you and people that create contemporary dance forms can create whatever they want, with any music they want , Indian or classical. We use rock music because it works for the theme we are looking at.”
Hofesh, now a Sadler’s Wells Associate Artiste, also finds contemporary dance to be adventurous. “And more people want to be part of adventurous things. Contemporary dance is about giving free, direct expression to people. It can draw movements from anything, people on the street, animals, how you feel what you think. The dance form is not trying to follow any doctrine or philosophy. That’s the point of it.”
Even his childhood and upbringing in Jerusalem, finds Hofesh, does not really directly impact his work.
“Jerusalem has had an effect on me. It’s a conflicted place, filled with social tension, cultural tension, and financial tension. These tensions are everywhere and my work is about what I see around,” he says. “Israeli folk dance is what inspired me to start dancing and I learnt so much being there, especially from Ohad Naharin and the Batsheva Dance Company.”
If there is one overarching theme in his works, it’s his feeling that humans are pathetic. “Human make an effort to organize themselves, feel supreme. But at the end of the day, they are another life form that is needy and dependent. There is something sad about them trying to be cooler than they are. Through my work, I look at society from different angles.”