A slap on the back is passed around a circle of men, the impact teetering, at first, on the edge between affection and violence before it ultimately tips over into a brawl. “With Uprising, I almost felt I had this wild dog inside me that needs to be unleashed,” Israeli-born London-based choreographer Hofesh Shechter has said of his iconic 2006 work Uprising. “It’s really about the childish and competitive mood of a group of men flung together in a room.”
Hofesh Shechter’s tHE bAD. Photo © Gabriele Zucca
Uprising is the first on a Hofesh Shechter double bill – Hofesh in the Yard – presented by Perth’s own STRUT Dance, in association with the Hofesh Shechter Company, on a temporary stage set up in the courtyard of the State Theatre Centre, surround by a (mostly) standing audience. To Shechter’s brutal, pulsing soundtrack, the seven male dancers spar and brawl, coming together with spot-on synchronicity, or breaking apart with wild, physical energy. Aggression and trauma play out viscerally, as do – more rarely – moments of intimacy, from fleeting, almost covert, eye contact between two dancers to a physical embrace that offers physical and emotional relief from the work’s intensity.
The audience are invited to stand as close to the stage as possible, adding an additional layer of connection and complicity – the pack mentality of sporting event, military drilling or prison riot ratcheted up a notch, with a thrill of adrenaline for those on the edge of the stage as the dancers surge full-tilt towards them.
The intensity never falters as a larger ensemble – no longer just men – bring the same tightly drilled group work to the stage for the second piece on the program, tHE bAD, the dancers swapping their cargo pants for gold bodysuits in a relentless work that matches Uprising’s ferocious energy but with a joyous, often humorous, slant. From bristling, explosive dubstep to movement (and, in a jolting transition, music) drawing on Baroque dance, the work conjures a fierce joy in physicality from the contemporary dance club to baroque statuary.
There are moments when the audience is drawn into the spectacle, the success of the ‘mosh-pit’ standing format no doubt varying depending on the audience itself on any given night, but what is undeniable is the high-octane, take no prisoners performances from STRUT Dance.
Hofesh in the Yard plays in the State Theatre Centre Courtyard as part of the Perth Festival until March 1