Saturday, October 08, 2011

Hofesh Shechter's 'Political Mother'

I'm declaring this my favorite show of the da:ns festival, even though the season has only just begun and there're more performances to go. Of course I'm keeping an open mind, but there's no doubt that it has burnt right through. It's worth shortening a trip to return for this. 'Political Mother' by the Hofesh Shechter Company totally Blew.My.Mind.

One hour and ten minutes later, I walked out of the theatre in a state of near rapture.

I never know what to expect in contemporary dance. 'Political Mother' is Hofesh Shechter's latest full length work exploring the theme of the individual, self, belonging, nationalism, nationhood and community. It isn't difficult to understand why Hofesh Shechter is the current blue-eyed boy of contemporary dance-prog/post-rock world. His concerts have been likened to the energy, angst and thrill of prog-rock gigs. (Read reviews from The Telegraph, C + C Culture Factory, and The Guardian.)

I'm very pleased that the man suspended all snide comments about dance and attended the 'Political Mother' with us. I was fairly sure he'd enjoy it. The man wouldn't bother with dance performances usually. But he was intrigued by this one. He didn't do too much reading about it. He enthusiastically said yes to watching it, joined us tonight and walked out raving about it. (Check out the video clips of the performance here.)

Visually stunning with the dancers on stage, drummers in the background, and guitarists on a platform above, Hofesh Shechter is the genius who put this contemporary dance performance into a show. He personally created the musical score for 'Political Mother' and for the performance, used 5 fantastic guitarists on the electric (we saw mainly 4) and 5 drummers (we saw mainly 3). It was full-on post-rock/post-metal accompanying the dancers. Hofesh Shechter had been the drummer in a rock band, and has the talent and vision to score his dances. What can be more original and indie than that? The man's attention was firmly on the stage. Reminiscent of Russian Circles, Isis, Red Sparowes, Pelican and bits of Wolves In The Throne Room, the music contains poly rhythms and sequences which are totally fascinating to us. Towards the end, it felt like a rock gig. The volume of the music is LOUD. I even forgave the use of Joni Mitchell's version of 'Both Sides Now' as the final piece of music. (Rather apt, actually.)

The dancing is strong, fiercely so. I was near enough to catch the emotions flitting across the faces of the 12 dancers. There were belief, bewilderment, despair and exultation. Contemporary dance utilizes compositional philosophy which focuses on other disciplines outside the traditional dance choreography. 'Political Mother' isn't just about the dancing, it's about the stories. It isn't about one event. It's a movement; it's a political commentary. You can't miss the dark macabre character(s) of an activist/a general/a politician/rock star growling into the microphone.

The performance isn't primal, but it's evocative and emotive of a recent period of turbulence and political activism. Seated, watching the expressive movement of the dancers fueled by a genre of raw, dark music, I felt a wide range of emotions bubbling and swirling within, brought on by my knowledge and understanding of the world. There were curiosity, impulses, rage, fear, resignation, violent denial, subjugation, and finally, hope. My fists were clenched at many points. Tonight, I watched the performance in the wake of the announcement of the Nobel Peace Prize winners, as well as the  momentous one-day rock festival in Kabul, amidst the aftermath of toppling Mubarak, the Tunisian revolution, a new era in Thai politics and Myanmar's elections, Gaddafi's resistance, umm......our own general and presidential elections, et cetera.

Tell me, how can I not feel a depth of emotions while watching 'Political Mother'?

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