Photos – Sean Fennessy
Dance as an art form is so often filled with lyrical portrayals of beauty, love and grace. It is not so often that it takes on the subjects of political regimes, violence and oppression. But Political Mother, the newest contemporary dance work from Israeli Choreographer Hofesh Shechter, tackles these topics head on. A blistering, passionate and incredibly beautiful piece, Political Mother vibrates with ferocious energy and almost blew the roof off the Arts Centre Playhouse where it is being presented as part of the 2011 Melbourne Festival.
Taking its language from the conventions of traditional Jewish folk dance, Shechter abstracts the movement, thus becoming suggestive without being didactic. The choreography demonstrates the physical impact of war and violence and its strain on the human body. Ghost like victims raise their hands in surrender or supplication, their bodies held with tension, released with delirium and collapsed with exhaustion and relief. They run through the shadows solo and in groups, backs to the audience, facing a nameless dictator who reigned down upon them with sound and noise and distorted directives.
The electrifying opening sequence incorporates live musicians, rousing military drums and shredding electric guitar, set on a multi-level stage and hovering as a menacing presence above the company below. The soundtrack is pounding and relentless but despite this the dancers move with incredible softness. They seem to float across the stage barely touching the ground, like puppets suspended from strings. As a company they possess amazing cohesiveness, the ensemble sequences breathtakingly beautiful and executed with faultless unison.
That said, the piece could have done with a touch more brevity, as material began to repeat and the pace started to drag in the last half an hour of the performance. A work of such energy soon becomes overwhelming and a little more development of light and shade would add respite from the barrage of physical and aural information.
The ending, whilst confounding at first soon reveals itself to be the work in reverse, a gorgeous Joni Mitchell song providing the soundtrack. Demonstrating that when you invert the intentions behind the violence of war, all you are left with is love.
Political Mother is a bold and thrilling piece of dance, bound to leave its audiences exhilarated – if somewhat exhausted!
Hofesh Shechter Company
Venue: the Arts Centre, Playhouse | 100 St Kilda Road, Melbourne
Dates: 12 – 15 Oct, 2011
Tickets: $85.00 – $25.00
Bookings: the Arts Centre 1300 182 183 | Ticketmaster 1300 723 038
Part of the 2011 Melbourne Festival