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Political Mother delivers on high expectations

By Melanie Brown on November 10, 2012

Expectation is a dangerous thing to bring to a dance show. Dance has a way of tapping into a deeper level where things are understood instinctively and emotionally, not rationally. But so much has been written about Hofesh Shechter and Political Mother, it would be impossible to come to the show without expectations.

Shechter shot to stardom after a very short period of time, gaining both accolades and awards. His work has been described as daring, loud, angry, and unlike anything you have ever seen, and it is the thing to see right now. His performances leave audiences wondering if it was a rock show or dance show, but ultimately wanting more.

Throughout his life, the Israeli born, UK based choreographer has studied and practiced both music and dance. In interviews, Shecther has said he expects people to react to his show: they are free to cheer, drink beer, and shout out. Expectations, needless to say, are high.

Political Mother picks up themes and elements from his earlier work. He presents intense scenes with lighting, dance and live music-all holding equal ground. The themes explored, though, are about unequal ground—in society, in relationships, the hierarchies of the powerful and those that serve them. The characters in the performance and the way they are presented on the stage reinforce this, with a dictator-like figure and guitarists set above to command attention, drummers (in military garb) at the back and the dancers occupying the stage below.

Unlike other choreographers, Shecther composes original music for his choreography. Soon into Political Mother, it becomes apparent that the music and movement were simultaneously conceived (Shecther composes as he choreographs in the creation process).  This makes all the difference with how the dancers dance. They do not preform to the accompanying music. Rather, their movements are generated by the music; they are connected to it in a symbiotic way and one does not serve the other.

Critics who have written about Political Mother understand the dancers to represent the downtrodden, the oppressed, the servants. When they are positioned as individuals on the stage in particular, they embody a pathetic quality—head down, feet shuffling softly, and arms static in the air in a gesture of surrender—the downtrodden.

But there is something about the way they dance when in a group that changes their presence. Arms instead are raised and thrusting, bodies are propelled by the music; they move with a cohesion that keeps them connected.  Their energy is infectious as they move across the stage, together, to the music, intrinsically, as a diverse whole. The energy does not come from a power above, but instead is a force generated solely by them, their resistance and their dance. When they move as a group like this they seem impenetrable by anything outside.

A text is projected at the end of the performance stating ‘Where there is pressure, there is folkdance.’ Shechter saw this phrase on an art piece and began thinking about the work that would become Political Mother. The completed work shows that there will always be pressure, but resistance is possible. Expectations can be exceeded.

Political Mother is at the NAC Theatre Nov 9-10