Choreographer Hofesh Shechter set to bring his latest show to Norfolk and Norwich Festival
PUBLISHED: 07:00 10 May 2018 | UPDATED: 08:36 10 May 2018
Choreographer Hofesh Shechter is bringing his Olivier Award-nominated work Grand Finale to Norwich Theatre Royal next week. Ahead of the performance, he speaks to Sarah Crompton
Hofesh Shechter Company’s latest show Grand Finale blends a mix of genres and a powerful message about a world in freefall, but the performance is also about the unique experience of each individual audience member.
“Many times people want to know what I meant in a particular dance piece,” said choreographer Hofesh Shechter.
“And I think it doesn’t really matter. What matters is what happens on stage, then if something happens to the audience when they watch it. Or not.”
This is perhaps an unexpected observation from a choreographer whose works from Cult, through the mighty Political Mother, to barbarians seem to burn with meaning and the need to be understood.
But it springs from his sense that people can be put off dance if they feel they don’t grasp what is unfolding in front of them and are failing a type of test.
“When someone sits and watches the performance, it is about what is happening to them in their head, how they feel,” he said.
“It doesn’t matter that they get it right in some way.”
Having said all that, it would be impossible to miss the fact that Grand Finale, which is coming to Norwich Theatre Royal on Tuesday, reflects the uncertainty and confusion of the troubled times we are living in.
Hofesh explained: “I was curious observing the news that there’s this sense that things get out of control and people get panicked or excited. “Everything collapses but it’s almost like a celebration. It’s a chaotic state of being, it’s an apocalypse, and yet there is something amusing about it.
“Perhaps from an optimistic point of view, it’s part of the cycle of life and evolution. Things collapse, and then we build them up again.”
Hofesh also wanted to explore the way in which society itself is responding to crisis.
“Everybody’s an observer these days,” he said.
“None of us feel personally responsible, even though all of us are equally responsible. It’s a funny place we’re in.”
That mixture of bleak humour and profound themes has always characterised his creations, but the actual genesis of Grand Finale was prompted by his desire to explore new territory as a choreographer.
“I think I get bored quite easily. I am quite aware that I could reproduce, more or less, my earlier work and probably survive.
“But I don’t know why I would do that. It would be really boring if I did Uprising x 10.
“I have a style, I have a taste and I have things that excite me, but I want to set myself new challenges.”
Grand Finale is a work that both looks back and breaks new ground, he said.
The new ground involves his decision to work with a designer for the first time, and with a group of musicians playing classical compositions rather than his own soundtrack
Simultaneously, he has returned to basics in the actual creation of the piece. He worked with his dancers in a studio in a remote village in Italy, far from the madding crowd.
He said the concentration and peace was “amazing” and it triggered a burst of ideas.
“I felt I wanted to go back into something I had abandoned for a few years, which was dealing with the actual skilfulness of choreography, of actually moving bodies on stage.
For a choreographer who has been acclaimed as the future of the dance since the moment his piece Cult won the audience award at the Place Prize in 2004, the need to have an ongoing sense of discovery is acute.
“Looking at the future of your creation is like looking at the ocean in the night,” he said.
“You know it is there, and you might be able to swim as far as you can, you might not, you just don’t know.
“So really, at the moment of Cult I couldn’t know that I was going to make a piece like Grand Finale.
“Creation is something that happens in the time you are in; it’s an art of being in the moment.”
Grand Finale is at Norwich Theatre Royal on Tuesday as part of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival. The performance is at 7.30pm.
Tickets £8-£26. For more information and to book tickets, visit www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk or call the box office on 01603 630000.