CONTEMPORARY DANCE 2.0 at the Battersea Arts Centre
“The effect is paradoxically dreamlike, but shot through with the energy of the battlefield”
Contemporary Dance 2.0 is a breathtaking reminder of the energy and innovation that choreographer Hofesh Shechter brings to the dance. Fans of earlier productions such as Political Mother will delight in the pounding rhythms and signature movements that the Shechter II Company brings to this latest work currently on tour at the Battersea Arts Centre. Contemporary Dance 2.0 is of our time, yet draws on a paradoxical, often ironic, combination of modern dance, ballet, and traditional folk dance. On the music side, in addition to Shechter’s own compositions, there are deliberately incongruous nods to Bach and Frank Sinatra along the way.
Shechter hails from Israel, where he trained as a musician, before finding an additional calling as a dancer and choreographer. His training in dance, especially in folk dance; his years as a musician, and his commitment to dance as both a political and community based act, show up constantly in his work. Based in the UK since 2002, he has worked with a number of companies before forming his own. The Shechter II Company that performs Contemporary Dance 2.0 is drawn from young dancers aged between 18 and 25. Shechter has worked very successfully with these comparatively inexperienced artists to produce dancers capable of moving in disciplined unity with the high powered energy that his choreography demands. The company has also emerged as a group of dancers more than capable of putting their own stamp on individual breakout moments throughout the performance.
Contemporary Dance 2.0 begins with a characteristically heavy beat as the dancers come on stage. A handwritten card announces Part One: Pop. Each dancer works in tight coordination with the others, but thanks to the costuming by Osnat Kelner, each dancer has an individual, as well as a collective identity. The movements are a complex mix of pulsing, undulating bodies and fluttering of hands, juxtaposed with moments of explosive athleticism. It’s a seamless coordination with the music. The lighting (Tom Visser) and the stage effects often shift between a semi dark smokiness where you can barely see the dancers, to moments of bright illumination scattering across their bodies. Again, echoing the beat. Dancers Tristan Carter, Cristel de Frankrijker, Justine Gouache, Zakarius Harry, Alex Haskins, Oscar Jinghu Li, Keanah Faith Simin and Chanel Vyent dance, often in wedge formations, to a moment where a dancer is forced into an individual statement, a breaking away from the pack. Bodies are rolled across the stage. Even thrown against a potential partner, only to be rejected, and fall away. And just when you are accustomed to the incessant beat, there is an abrupt shift in music, mood, sound and lighting. Traditional forms assert themselves against the pounding modernity. The stage fills with an austere serenity. Bach. Ballet moves. A deliberate parody of the past. Parts Two (with feelings), Part Three (Mother) and Part Four (Contemporary Dance) even parody Shechter’s own artistic past as well as the history of dance. But there’s no linear storytelling at work here. The overall effect of Contemporary Dance 2.0 is not so much a coherent narrative, as an invitation to a trance like state that pulls dancers and audiences alike into an awareness of heightened realities. The effect is paradoxically dreamlike, but shot through with the energy of the battlefield. Finally, there’s another abrupt shift as the dancers announce The End — again on a rough piece of card held up on stage. It’s the last ironic touch as the dancers swing into the sound of Frank Sinatra singing “My Way.”
If you don’t get a chance to see the Hofesh Shechter Company live, there are films and videos you can watch online to get a sense of this remarkable work. But do try and see them live if you can. An opportunity to watch the audience succumb to the same hypnotic rhythms as the dancers — to get caught up in those rhythms yourself —should not be missed. Catch Contemporary Dance 2.0 at the Battersea Arts Centre if you can.
Reviewed 26th October 2022
by Dominica Plummer
Photography by Todd MacDonald
Contemporary Dance will be playing at Dance XChange Birmingham on 24-25 November which is the last UK date of its international tour.
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