It's going to get loud at the Orpheum Theatre on Tuesday night, and it's not just because a live rock band with a heavy-metal vibe will be accompanying Hofesh Shechter's evening-length dance work "Political Mother."
The 2010 production, co-presented by Northrop Concerts and Lectures with Walker Art Center, uses highly physical contemporary movement and roiling rhythms to explore a host of provocative themes, such as the collision of the individual will against external forces.
Sounds like the perfect post-election night out.
The timing isn't lost on Shechter. "It will be a really interesting performance," the Israeli-born artist said by telephone from Great Britain, where his troupe is based at the Brighton Dome. Shechter is also an artistic associate at London's famed international dance presenter, the Sadler's Wells Theatre. "Hopefully the images the audience has experienced in the week before will flash in their minds and awake emotions. It's a great coincidence. It can give people a different perspective on how it went."
So what is it about "Political Mother" that resounds with us inhabitants of an increasingly polarized world? One reason is that Shechter addresses his subject matter using firsthand knowledge of life along a dividing line.
"I come from Jerusalem, where there is a lot of tension and different realities collide all the time," he said. The 37-year-old choreographer, who served his compulsory army service while rising in the ranks of Batsheva Dance Company, is fascinated by the interplay between "control and power and oppression," but not just in the political sphere. Personal responses to big events intrigue Schechter as much as ideology.
While Shechter said he could not pinpoint where the idea for this particular work came from, he did recall finding himself struck by the stark contrast between his quiet life in Britain, where he moved in 2002 and made his choreographic debut a year later, with the news reports from more volatile parts of the globe.
"For a while I was curious about how we can flick from one reality to another," he said. "We have compassion for a stressful situation, and in another second we completely forget about it."
The dancers in "Political Mother" seem to be engaged in an ongoing struggle, sometimes resisting a stifling authority while also being drawn to its more attractive aspects, perhaps weighing their best interests against more immediate needs. Shechter's choreography reflects this collective action -- and confusion -- through his use of folk dance blended with a jagged postmodern sensibility.
"I was in a youth folk dance company in Jerusalem," he said. "It was a big part of my social expression and introduction to dance. I'm using some elements, but not one-to-one. Folk dancing brings people together."
But there are also underlying influences at play in "Political Mother," the kind that can pull people apart. A charismatic character, perhaps a dictator whose intentions are not immediately apparent, is seen throughout the work.
"The figure brings something out in the dancers -- almost something pathetic," Shechter said. "We never understand what he says, but it's about having a leader that excites. I enjoyed the idea of something vague about good and bad. Sometimes he seems like a rock star or a politician or a general. I like this confusion. People like to follow. We like to flock together. We enjoy the idea of a leader. People love stars."
And speaking of cults of personality, this is where the rock music comes in -- at a thunderous volume. Shechter, a skilled drummer who has played in groups, composed the score with the intent of adding another sensory experience to the mix.
"Live music brings power to the work, but I'm trying to use it when it is valued, when the presence of the musicians also gives an element that is thought-provoking and emotion-provoking," he said. "They are like rock gods. But it's not just about being loud. They are playing a part in the atmosphere in the piece."
For Shechter, the music and dance are completely integrated. "Really the two things are fueling each other," he added. "I don't see them as separate things. It's one experience. I work in images. I will try all the music and lights and dancing to purify a very specific energy."
One that resonates for much longer than the rhetoric of an election season.
Caroline Palmer writes regularly about dance.