31 October 2018 to 03 November 2018
Shechter II is the ‘young company’ of Hofesh Shechter Company, and their energy is incredible. Shechter has created an almost non-stop 55 minutes of dance for them – the central piece, Clowns, originally devised in 2016 and now topped and tailed by a substantial intro called The Entrance and a fun finale, named Exit.
Clowns itself works up to a longish sequence of curtain-call style moves, and that’s still there, creating its own wild audience applause – the master-manipulator has not lost his touch.
The eight dancers work together the whole time, and their accompaniment, most of the time, is a set of mesmerizingly iterated pounding rhythms – ‘tribal’, some would call it – four-to-a-bar in The Entrance and two in a bar for Clowns. Corelli’s Christmas Concerto gets a look-in, too, during The Entrance – though it uses only part of one movement, so why they credit the full track listing of their CD source, including the Pastorale which gives the concerto its nickname (but which we don’t hear), goodness knows.
At the start it seemed as if – given that it was Hallowe’en and you soon thought ‘Tis the season to be creepy’ – the dancers were showing us the undead walking abroad. Slowly and dimly lit, their ragged shapes took on unsmiling movement, menacingly so even when the steps were happy-happy skipping and folksy circles. Shechter’s invention includes repeated bits of choreography which he brings back and combines like leitmotifs, and one set that becomes more and more dominant in this work, from the opening to Exit, is of physical assaults and murderous mimed movements.
All just fake, of course. They’re clowns, doing it for fun, purely to entertain. Or are they? Maybe they’re like puppets dancing on someone else’s strings – the unremitting, stamina-sapping, continuous movement certainly gives that impression.
You make what you will of Hofesh Shechter’s work: his Manchester audience clearly loved it and you can only applaud the technical accomplishment of all concerned (the lighting design team of Lee Curran, Richard Godin and Alan Valentine have achieved amazing things) and the superb skills and dedication of his young dancers.
Reviewer: Robert Beale