In the opening scene of Hofesh Shechter’s “Political Mother,” a lone man stands onstage, clothed in a pared-down version of Japanese Samurai armor. Soft choral music sets in. The warrior lifts his sword and proceeds to slowly pantomime seppuku, the ritual of honorable suicide. The lights cut to black; the music screeches to silence, and then, seconds later, startles the audience with loud heavy-metal guitars.
Shechter, an Israeli-born choreographer based in London, is familiar with dramatic scenes. His own rise in the world of contemporary dance over the past five years has itself created quite a stir. In England, he sells out huge auditoriums such as Sadler’s Wells and Brighton Dome. This fall, Shechter’s “Political Mother” will bring the artist’s provocative mélange of dance, music and physical theater to the United States, debuting at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in October, then moving to Minneapolis’s Orpheum Theater.
“With the backdrop of the upcoming American election, I think the piece will feel particularly current,” Shechter said. “It does not have a set agenda, but it does present situations that are full of tension. The physicality of dance makes you think about ideas directly and instinctually, more than you could in a verbal conversation.”
Shechter is a tall man with lanky stretched-out limbs. He has dark hair and a scruffy beard, and though he can look intense and intimidating, he is refreshingly open and unpretentious when discussing his work. “I am a long and stringy man, so I am very interested in fluidity in motion,” he said.
“Political Mother” transports its audience to a dark dreamscape where nightmarish rebellions are suppressed. The piece features bold characters: a politician orating before a crowd, a rock star screaming in rage; an ensemble of dancers who play villagers, prisoners and warriors. Dressed in street clothes, brown work-camp pajamas and medieval armor, these characters trade costumes throughout the piece, suggesting the similarities between captives and captors.
“We explored a variety of themes in the process, but we kept coming back to power and powerlessness,” said rehearsal director Bruno Guillore, a company dancer. “The push and pull between a government and its citizens is a timeless tale.”
“Political Mother” doesn’t have a clear narrative; its scenes flash on and off as if television channels are being changed. The piece starts out fast, with large sections of frenzied marches, runs and jumps.