Review: Hofesh Shechter presents…SHOW [HOME Manchester]

Elaine Bermitz reviews the Hofesh Shechter Company’s new production SHOW at HOME Manchester as part of it’s new autumn winter season.

I am a complete novice at ballet, only ever having seen Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty to accompanying classical scores, so I took a friend who knew much more than me, having danced and taught classical ballet to see famed Israeli choreographer Hofesh Shechter’s  ballet SHOW at HOME Manchester.

As soon as the piece began we knew we were in for something completely different. Pounding, insistent drumbeats filled the auditorium as characters dressed as clowns, emerged  from a mist-filled stage. There were eight in total, seven clowns and a ringmaster, dancing in lines of four, male and female, discernible, but only in monochrome, beckoning and greeting the audience and one another. As the music increased in volume we were invited in to experience their world. How it was achieved I am not qualified to say, but it was very clear that this was an uncomfortable, threatening world, controlled somehow by the ringmaster, an authority figure who was far from benevolent.

In the middle section – which was only 35 minutes long – the sense of threat turned specific. The noise of beating drums became louder, more staccato, the mist cleared and the colours of the costumes more visible. A beautiful intricate elegant dance began, punctuated by acts of murder, character upon character, repeated as each one fell to the floor, rose again and rejoined the dance only to kill or be killed again with perfect timing, leaving the dance uninterrupted. Shooting, stabbing, strangulation, even hanging ensued and the drumbeats resembled gunshots, even machine-gun bursts, always relentless.

And the finale? Both lines of figures acknowledged the audience, embraced one another and returned to killing one another. Altogether a grim and unsettling experience, which my balletic friend assure me was executed with perfect timing, exceptional elegance and enhanced by highly original lighting techniques.

Definitely not Sleeping Beauty then. Nor even lyrical or poignant. Rock and roll, aggressive, at odds with hope or beauty, certainly. A piece where the perfection of the human action is at odds with the deeds it performs – maybe much closer to Hofesh Shechter’s temperament and the violent world in which much of our planet lives.