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Hofesh Shechter Company

November 10, 2015

Barbarians (a trilogy)

Reviewed November 10, 2015

NAC Theatre, Ottawa

(Repeat performance November 11, 7:30 p.m.)

An infinitely unpredictable choreographer who burst onto the scene about a decade ago, Hofesh Shechter has created a trilogy over the past year called barbarians, which is an unpredictable meaningless rock romp that leaves you nothing short of stunned.

the barbarians in love, Photograph by Gabriele Zucca

the barbarians in love, Photograph by Gabriele Zucca

It’s not the sort of work you write about. You simply have to see it if you want to understand what the choreography of this unique, high-energy, complicated artist is like.

Blaring with sharp beat-based electronica, and interspersed with Baroque music, barbarians plays indiscriminately with the lighting — blinding in an instant or shadowing the stage in long subdued passages. Bopping dance moves are juxtaposed with explosive conflict, gentle waving limbs with animalistic jousts.

In Part 1 of the trilogy, the barbarians in love, Shechter has created a strange black and white landscape, populated with six dancers in head-to-toe white, right down to their socks, adding an institutional tone. The dance can turn on a dime with sudden changes in pace, a bout of handclapping or raving from the performers.

“Will I ever know!” a robotic voice shouts out, and wonders if there might be a psychiatrist in the audience or a psychotherapy store.

All of it seems to take us to dangerous places and then ends abruptly with the dancers standing still, spaced wide apart across the stage, fully naked in individual spotlights that sculpt their exposed skin in a final moment of vulnerability.

tHE bAD, the second work in the trilogy, features five dancers in shiny gold tight-fitting body suits that make them look wet and naked under low lighting. Shechter shows us his wild side in this primal scream of a work, a kind of brain-on-fire performance that is unbelievably physically demanding for the dancers.

“It’s not really about anything. If you came here for meaning, thank you for your money,” one of the dancers announces to the audience amidst this fearless unapologetic rage that fears nothing in the realm of music or dance.

While the title of the trilogy’s final duet, Two completely different angles of the same fucking thing, might be flippant and amusing, it’s the oddest duet I’ve ever seen. Funny and desperate, joyous and tragic, it’s all too disturbingly personal.

While Shechter studied dance and music in Jerusalem and performed with the renowned Batsheva Dance Company in Tel Aviv, he began experimenting with music, dance and theatre in Europe before landing in the United Kingdom, where he eventually formed his own company in 2008. His works have been acclaimed and have won awards.

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