Political Mother, Hofesh Shechters first full-length feature since 2007, finally arrives for the eagerly anticipating London dance set after debuting at the Brighton Festival several months ago.
While Shechter is never overtly political, the undertones are undeniable. The dancers wear prison-like uniform, the drummers are clad in military gear.
One interesting character springs to mind: lit up from the back and standing high, we see a man ranting and gesticulating manically. Is it a fanatic, fundamentalist preacher? Is it a politician, arguing for a vote? A rebel group leader rounding up the troops, stirring up anger and hate? Shechter seems to be telling us: theyre all the same. Nevertheless, the others face him, kneeling, as if praying to a godly figure.
This imagery is directly followed by the guitarists and singer of the live band that accompanies the production they glow under their spotlights, standing tall in the same place as their predecessor. Is this our new religion, our new god?
Political Mother seems to be saying something about destiny. At times, the dancers move with intent, full of purpose; a lot of the time, however, they are stopped in their tracks and trembling violently. When they sprint in a circle of light, we question whether it is possible to break out of this cycle of chasing, of needing.
There are flashes of humour, too. Arms up like they are in surrender and facing the audience, the dancers line up, waiting for their captors next step. Only that in a similar way to those in prison uniform, who are dehumanised not just by their clothes, but from the way they walk as if possessed, or roll on their backs, directionless their captor is wearing a gorilla mask. We laugh, not just because its a funny sight, but because it takes away his power over the others. Meanwhile, a couple, convinced of their imminent death, turn to find a bongo-fuelled carnival dance behind them.
At the end of the piece, all the action goes into slow-motion and we are brought right back, section by section, to the very beginning, where a warrior now pulls a sword out of himself. Perhaps the title is referring to mother as creator, that we are the creator of our own destiny, not followers of a written path.
What makes Shechter, and Political Mother, exhilarating to watch is that he is never tempted into conventions of what is dance by putting a nice turn here or a high leg extension there. His vocabulary remains defiantly his.
Much like his previous works, his dancers move in a pack a gang, a cult, call it what you will and their movements are grounded and at times animal-like. It is this intensely raw quality that makes his choreography feel real. It is an immediate feeling that hits you inside as you watch this chaotic energy; the folk dance of our times.
On a different note, whereas his last London show, The Choreographers Cut at the Roundhouse, was full of loud, skinny-jeaned teenagers, the opening night of Political Mother attracted a crowd not vastly different from usual Sadlers Wells performances.
What if Shechters work has stopped being relevant to those it had tried so hard to reach? Within five minutes of the opening, when the guitars come on and the drummers appear in blocks of light (with the volume turned up to eleven, if you will), any fears were quickly banished. But, apparently, this cannot be said for everyone, as evidenced by one couple in front of me, who put their hands to their ears as the first notes came crashing in and remained so for the duration of the dance. At the end as the audiences deafening applause surrounded them they sat, stone-faced, their hands firmly on their sides. Oh well, you cant have it all.