Published on February 2nd, 2017 | by Liz Allum0
Review: Everyday Moments – Hofesh Schecter
In a dark room, furnished with just a single chair, a masterclass with one of the UK’s most prestigious choreographers awaits.
Hofesh Shechter’s audio performance for individual audience members is a challenging and thought provoking experience. Alone, in a dark room, we are guided through a soundscape of movement, encouraged to let go, follow the gentle movement suggestions, without judgement, without observation.
How do you behave when we are on our own, what every day actions change when you know no one is watching? Do you sing loudly, do you leave the toilet door open, do you drink straight from the carton? Do you dance? Shechter wants us to free ourselves in this private space, and move.
The text and music are sinister and intimate, whispered directly into your ears through wireless headphones, he questions and philosophises along to a darkly mysterious and at times powerful sound track. Loud, guitar based music erupts from a softer soundscape, willing you to abandon inhibition and move freely around the space, light as a carrier bag, or fluid as a bag of sand.
The poetry in his text is beautiful and the music is disarming and this combination was both the highlight of the work and the problem for me. As a person who has no dance training, apart from ballet as a child, and who has spent the majority of their adult life immersed in words, in one way or another, I found the piece entirely cerebral.
The narrator, Hofesh himself, does not command you to move, rather he suggests a series of visualisations, much like a guided meditation or relaxation class would. He gives you permission to move if you wish, but the overriding message is that you take control of your own experience. This is what I did, and for me that meant simply listening, which was enjoyable but I also felt conflicted and more than a little disappointed; disappointed In myself, and disappointed that the piece was not powerful enough to transport me to a place where I could move freely.
After speaking to two dancers who had experienced the piece, and others who have had physical or movement training in some capacity, it became clear that Hofesh is tapping in to a known ‘script’ of movement classes, it is a code that dancers will understand, they are versed in this language and recognise how to respond. All the dancers I spoke to were much more able to find movement in themselves in response to his words. For them, perhaps it felt like a secret masterclass, where the conflict between remaining present and letting go of one’s movement and body is less challenging.
That said, a lack of dance training does not detract from the unique, unsettling and enlivening experience of the piece. Individually experienced theatre moments like this are a rare find in Reading. They are truly personal, memorable things, genuinely experienced quite differently by each person, and requiring some bravery and commitment.
This requirement for the audience member to give something to the piece takes participation to a whole new level and the return in that investment is so much more significant, there is certainly nothing ‘every day’ about it.
We sometimes go to the theatre expecting to be entertained, to be made to laugh, or to be moved. Hofesh’s enthralling and curious piece requires that you move yourself, and gives you a secret, private stage to do it on. The only restraint on the possibility of your experience is yourself.