Hofesh Shechter's Sun (Tour – Blackpool)

Robin Duke finds even with the bad weather, Hofesh Shechter does indeed bring Sun to Blackpool.

© Hofesh Shechter

Blackpool may never quite shake off its reputation for end of the pier comedians and karaoke singers in kiss me quick hats but it is doing its best to be taken a sight more seriously in other aspects of the performing arts.

In the 1990s Blackpool Grand Theatre began to make a mark with adventurous but ill attended programmes of contemporary dance. When sponsorship dried up and subsidised competition elsewhere in the North West arrived, dance fans were left with visits from the occasional classical ballet and sequinned television terpsichorean spin-offs.
But in April 2012 the Grand became an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation securing £120,000 per year over three years to become a regional centre of excellence for contemporary dance.

Its latest season of adventurous – and these days well attended – programming saw the first visit here of internationally acclaimed choreographer Hofesh Shechter and his company’s brand new show Sun.
All right, its title might be at odds with the gales and floods sweeping the nation but Shechter would surely appreciate the irony having already declared: “As the show unfolds the audience won’t quite make sense of the experience – I expect them to be intrigued, I expect their brains to buzz.” They do. After all it’s not easy to find a perfect world emerging out of anger and darkness in around 70 minutes (no interval).

Sun is the third work commissioned from Shechter by Brighton Dome during his tenure there as Resident Company and follows his now familiar template of fusing contrasting musical genres with a range of dance styles.
His off-stage spoken introduction informs us we’ll see a “bit of the end” to start proceedings and reassures us “in the end everything is going to be just fine.”

Thanks for that because along the way his tireless and perfect company of 15 fills the stage with two dimensional sheep, a lone wolf, hunting tribesmen and gun toting colonials, street violence, slow motion military marching, African rhythms, Greek folk dancing, stately minuets, classical ballet and more.

In a rag bag of costumes (designed by Christina Cunningham) and to a score composed by Shechter himself with borrowings/samples from the likes Irving Berlin (the ironical "Let’s Face The Music and Dance"), Icelandic rock band Sigur Ross, hymns and Wagner, the dancers move seamlessly from grunge to pin dropping silence, from spartan bright lighting to near darkness and from static mime to high energy street dance – all seen through a permanent mist of dry ice.

“I am extremely happy for the audience to go out feeling rather puzzled,” says Shechter. They do. But they are also more than extremely satisfied.

Hofesh Shechter's Sun is at the Sadler's Wells, London from 20 – 23 March.

– Robin Duke