First performed in 2010 Hofesh Shechter’s Political Mother now seems a remarkably prescient piece of choreography. Drawing its aesthetics from Shechter’s Middle Eastern background and tackling issues of resistance and oppression, it predicts the energy and essence of the Arab Spring, which began that same year, with an unnerving accuracy.
From the opening, Schechter makes it obvious that this is no normal piece of contemporary dance. On a bare stage a lone samurai warrior commits hari-kiri, before the audience is hit by a roiling wave of rock music that seems to liquefy the air. From there Schechter throws in everything from military drummers and a quartet of electric guitarists to a demonic dictator whose guttural screams ring out from the top of a wall.
But it’s his punchy and muscular choreography that rightly draws the attention. Performed by an athletic troupe of 10 dancers it flows across the stage in complicated routines that neatly contrast the ensemble’s need for cohesion against their search for individuality.
At times the dancers stomp and shuffle as if they are chained to each other with invisible shackles. At other points they seem to feed off each others’ collective energy in an explosion of kinetic chaos and movement. It’s a tension that sits at the heart of the performance and its these constant shifts keep the piece exciting.
Moving through a variety of stages there are almost too many ideas going on here. At one point the dancers enact a series of nightmarish tableaux that could have come direct from Abu Ghraib, at another the phrase ‘Where there is pressure there is folk dance’ appears spelled out in lights above the stage while the dancers spin around below. But Schechter can’t be faulted for his vision or ambition.
Two years on this is still a fresh, dynamic and important piece of work.