Political Mother, Sadler's Wells, London
Friday 16 July 2010
This first full-length work by Hofesh Shechter is driven by the beat. Dancers lope and stamp through folk-inflected steps, picked out by spotlights or vanishing into blackness. Shechter adds winding Eastern lines, thunderous drums and electric guitar, but it's the drumbeat that powers this dance.
Shechter is a choreographer who often creates his own music, he mixes loping dance moves and a gig atmosphere. Political Mother shows him pushing into new territory. His dancers are moving away from the crouching, simian moves of earlier works. Political implications are stronger, but still stylised. The mix of music, dance and staging has a wallop, though Shechter can't sustain the energy of the first half.
The piece opens with an image of death: a samurai figure stabbing himself. As the stage goes black, the beat starts up, looping and full of static, a solid, grumbling line of sound. The dancers move about the stage in a pack, driven by the beat. As they run, they raise and shake their hands, add little folk shuffles. Behind them, Lee Curran's lighting reveals four drummers. Their faces are in shadow, but we can see their buttoned, faintly military jackets as they add a thumping layer.
Up above, the spotlight shows a screaming figure on a balcony – a dictator or a rock star, roaring into a microphone. Around him, guitarists grind out heavy-metal riffs.
There's a sense of force, long before someone brings a gun onstage. A man tries to pull a woman into his own style of dancing; she resists, then tries to calm his own frantic twitches. The dancers line up like soldiers on parade, as a figure in a gorilla mask inspects them.
Political Mother sags when the looped beat stops. Without it, there's more time to notice the repetitions of Shechter's style. Even so, this is an ambitious step forward for Shechter.
Ends tomorrow (0844 412 4300); then touring (Hofesh.co.uk)
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