Festival REVIEW: Grand Finale @Brighton Dome

Choreography and music by Hofesh Shechter – a Brighton Festival commission.

Grand Finale

Brighton Dome

May 5

INTERNATIONALLY celebrated choreographer Hofesh Shechter’s latest work is a Brighton Festival commission, Grand Finale, a spectacularly bold new piece featuring 10 dancers and six musicians. It is comic, bleak and beautiful, evoking a world at odds with itself, full of anarchic energy and violent comedy. Filtering this irrepressible spirit, Shechter creates a vision of a world in freefall: part gig, part dance, part theatre.

The company’s exceptional ensemble of dancers comes from eight different countries. They are Chien-Ming Chang, Frédéric Despierre, Rachel Fallon, Mickael Frappat, Yeji Kim, Kim Kohlmann, Erion Kruja, Merel Lammers, Attila Ronai, Diogo Sousa with Associate Director Bruno Guillore.

We’d been warned about how loud it was going to be, but when the drums started beating and the music rising in its relentless drone and percussive pulsating tones we were helpless and dragged off into the dark heart of this wild, colossal dance piece. There’s a huge amount of contact between the dancers, a familiarity, a holding and nursing, a touch, a feeling of deep fundamental interconnectedness which is fleeting but constant, a note that underscores the mania, an exact touch stone of hope.

With disrupting and challenging movements using the apparently dead bodies to puppet and mimic moment and constant dragging around and off stage of seemingly lifeless dancers the piece is unsettling, but not for long as the frantic, frenetic pace forces you to lift your eyes up, to put things in perspective and move on. Urging you to get up and take one more step. It’s the ritual, the dance and the dance, Kali is on stage with us and as the music becomes ever more demanding of our attention, the shadows, high contrast shade and crepuscular shafts of smoky highlighted action grab the dancers themselves & they seem to melt in and out of the sets.

The set itself designed by Tom Scutt, is black huge monoliths, lit expertly by Tom Visser moved silently around the stage, boxing in, walling off, showing and swallowing, always looking on, sometimes iconic, other times threatening, always present and their moments formed a bigger, older ballet around the smaller, softer dancers beneath them. They evoked walls from Palestine, Berlin, Belfast and Mexico all trying to keep the other out, or in, implacable against the soft dancer’s bodies. I kept thinking of the genocides in Cambodia and the sectarian violence in Belfast, even though the music and tone suggested the Israeli Palestine conflict.

It’s rare to see and hear a piece so loud, and so agitated but at heart a mellowness, a settled seeking of something solid and permanency within the movements.   The onstage orchestra, themselves a part of motion and dance sometimes amplified to extraordinary levels other times acoustic and forced search themselves for chords and resolution in the music they play, hinting at folk melody and dance tracks, jingoistic anthems and reflective religious music’s, elements of Arvo Part’s search for serenity within repetition came out, but without settling long in, the music, like the movement and the dancers constantly segue from one to the other, leaving us tense and unable to look away, unsettled but fascinated.

And then when the moments of calm arrive, they are still, like death itself, sudden. Dancers fall to the floor and are lifted, urged back up, only to fall once again. Bodes are tenderly lifted and rocked, grief is felt, life is urged upon stillness once again then then they flesh is discarded. A stunning wall of bubbles fall directly downwards in the smoke, too heavy for their dreams, like spherical glycerine snow, the music and move shifts but the shadows linger on.

It’s chaotic and repetitive but slowly themes and movements become familiar, tribal, social, fascist, religious, urgent and bored, desperate and hopeless, druggy, frenzy, mobs and solitude, apotheosis and resolution, cruel and loving, it’s humanity’s chaos and the beauty that comes out of that, the dance touches on them all, and it has moments of startling beauty within it.

We left churned and fascinated by the dancers and this dance and also vividly connected to the heaving mass of humanity and our own movements within it and well pleased by this return to the Festival by the ravishing Hofesh Shechter Company

Full details of this event can be seen here on the Brighton Festival Website

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