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Hofesh Shechter Company: Grand Finale review at Sadler’s Wells, London – ‘mature and magnificent’

Hofesh Shechter: Grand Finale at Sadler's Wells, London. Photo: Tristram Kenton Hofesh Shechter: Grand Finale at Sadler's Wells, London. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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One could never accuse Hofesh Shechter of lacking ambition. His latest work is inspired by nothing less than the Apocalypse; it’s the end of the world as he knows it.

Working with a designer and classical musicians for the first time, Shechter has broadened his canvas and allowed elements of contemplation and tenderness to rebalance the visceral, raging spectacle that typifies much of his work.

Whatever doubts one had about his ability to evolve are swept away within minutes as a classical chamber quintet perform on stage between gliding monolithic slabs and the dancers invest Shechter’s singular choreographic vocabulary with the collective commitment of cult followers.

Shechter doesn’t do individuals – the dancers are rarely less than one organism, hopping and loping, stretching out their arms, flinging themselves around in seemingly random gestures before snapping back into a perfectly drilled unit.

Under the crepuscular lighting they are little more than smoky silhouettes, forms and formations etched in the air. Combined with the gentle, elegaic mood of the droning strings are tribal beats and thunderous percussion that presage doom; this is rupture, not Rapture.

A sequence in which four men dance with corpses is brutal, tender and horrifying; a party – possibly a wedding – is accompanied by jolly Kletzmer music. The walls close in, confining the dancers in rave club. The juxtapositions are often brutal but they lead to a conclusion of unexpected poignancy with a series of tableaux (a couple embracing, a man praying) that prick the memory like old photographs from a box in an attic. A mature and magnificent work.

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Hofesh Shechter’s latest work is sulphurous, visceral and surprisingly tender