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October 21st, 2009 Kate Williams | Theater
 

Hofesh Shechter Company (White Bird)

An Israeli-born dancemaker spars with Portland.

     
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IMAGE: Ben Rudick

Two men stand on a dark stage. They greet each other calmly, sharing a series of slow, intimate embraces—but the kindness doesn’t last. Before long their encounter has turned into a wrestling match, the pair twisting and writhing for the upper hand. The drumbeats in the background grow to dictate their movement–as if each undulation is commanded by the music. Just as one gains control, the scene ends.

The two men, along with 10 other members of Hofesh Schechter’s electrifying British dance company, will perform tonight at the Schnitzer as part of the White Bird Dance Series.

A graduate of both the Israeli Army and the Jerusalem Academy of Dance, Israeli-born Shechter brings an astounding level of physicality to his choreographic projects. He trained for years with the world-renowned Batsheva Dance Company (which performed in Portland in 2004) studying under Israeli surrealist Inbal Pinto and explosive European powerhouse Tero Saarinen. He moved to London in 2002 and soon began work on his own choreographic projects.

Shechter’s powerful, and at many times violent, movement—filled with stomps, kicks, and convulsions—certainly suggests a connection to his military history. Yet his material also appears to draw rhythms from a medley of sources, evoking everything from African and Brazilian dance to hip-hop at times. Such variety could make for muddled pieces; however, in his case, the diversity leads to enticing innovation.

In Uprising, the rough-and-tumble, all-male ensemble engages in a series of spars—from undulating tête-à-têtes to a massive, twitchy brawl that escalates to what seems to be a group smack-down by invisible assailants. In Your Rooms, the longer companion piece to Uprising, provides a less ferocious but no less provocative partner to the opener. The dancers appear in clips, as if in an onscreen montage, while a terse voice lectures on the nature of such intangible qualities as order, structure, tension and control. These words reverberate in the eerily isolating movement even after his voice disappears.

Shechter’s own highly percussive scores, performed live, form connective tissue between the two pieces, making for a cohesive and thrilling evening. Don’t miss it.


GO: Hofesh Shechter Company performs at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway, 248-4335. 7:30 pm Wednesday, Oct. 21. $20-$50. Visit ticketmaster.com or whitebird.org.
 
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