Reviews/Dance/Perth Festival

Rock show vibe electrifies

19 February 2020

Discipline meets wild fury in STRUT Dance’s ‘Hofesh in the Yard’, and Nina Levy finds it exhilarating.

Review: STRUT Dance, ‘Hofesh in the Yard’ ·
State Theatre Centre Courtyard, 18 February 2020·
Review by Nina Levy ·

It’s a humid February evening as we crowd around a massive, elevated dance floor in the State Theatre Centre’s Courtyard. The house lights dim and then there’s a surge of dazzling light, smoke and loud, loud sound. Seven male dancers materialise from the fray and march purposefully towards us.

Contemporary dance performance or … rock concert?

STRUT Dance’s “Hofesh in the Yard”, a double bill of works by renowned UK-based Israeli choreographer Hofesh Shechter, is, officially, the former. Standing at arm’s reach of the stage (and, at times, the dancers) in the cloying warmth of opening night, however, it feels a lot more like the latter. And there’s more where that came from.

Unusually, there are no program notes for either of the works, so interpretation is very much up to you.

The first, 2006’s Uprising, bristles with masculine aggression. The seven dancers are often hunched, like boxers in the ring, ready to pounce. Dominated by percussion, the music (also by Shechter) seems to drive the performers as they wrestle seen and unseen foes.

The pace is fast and transitions swift. Solos, duos and trios break away from the mass and then rejoin. Without notice, jerking and juddering can morph into silky-smooth lunges, or loose-limbed bouncing.

Masculine aggression in ‘Uprising’. Pictured are (l-R) Dean-Ryan Lincoln, Scott Galbraith and Alex Abbot. Photo: Anthony Tran

The dancers roll and writhe across the floor in waves, a seething mass of rippling and shaking bodies. They line up in unison, hunched over, elbows whirling systematically, mechanically.

It’s manic and magic.

The dancers – Alex Abbot, Mitchell Aldridge, Scott Galbraith, Mitch Harvey, Dean-Ryan Lincoln, Russell Thorpe and Robert Tinning – perform this challenging work with a fantastic combination of discipline and wild fury. Aldridge, in particular, is notable for the liquid quality of his solo work.

In tHE bAD (2015), the rock-vibe intensifies. Five male and five female dancers wear gleaming gold unitards, homage to 80s glam with a touch of Star Wars thrown in (think C3PO but much more co-ordinated). Again, the music is composed by Shechter and it’s full rock-band sound with electric guitar as the hero.

And the dancers? At times they are like rock stars, all swagger and shout.

Again, however, the mood is constantly changing, flipping between extraverted and introverted. Now the performers are loud and proud, now they’re caught up in a joyous and wild trance, now they seem trapped by uncontrollable judders and shakes, now they robotically thrust their hips with sinister intent. It’s exuberant at times, chilling at others. For those of us in the mosh pit it’s compelling, and potentially confronting.

Fascinatingly, the work is shot through with Baroque references and the dancers seem to channel Louis XIV as they casually drop into epaulement, accompanied by Baroque-style music.

Again, the cast is uniformly impressive in this fabulous, fast and often furious creation, with Scott Galbraith and Nikki Tarling standouts for their somewhat terrifying facial expressions.

This is STRUT Dance’s second season in the State Theatre Centre Courtyard, the first being 2017’s season of William Forsythe’s One Flat Thing, Reproduced. I’d love to see contemporary dance in the Courtyard added to Perth Festival’s regular outdoor events, alongside the likes of Ballet at the Quarry, the contemporary music program and the film festival.

Though I highly recommend getting as close as you can to the stage for this one (not my normal tip), I did occasionally feel jealous – particularly during tHE bAD – of those who were upstairs on the balcony, with an unrestricted view of the stage. Be aware, too, that there is a lot of floor work in Uprising, so if you can’t see the floor of the stage you’re going to miss out.

“Hofesh in the Yard” is contemporary dance at its best – absorbing, exhilarating and electrifying.

‘Hofesh in the Yard’ runs until 1 March 2020.

Pictured top: Glam with a touch of ‘Star Wars’ in ‘tHE bAD’, the second dance on the program for ‘Hofesh in the Yard’. Photo: Anthony Tran

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Author —
Nina Levy

Nina Levy has worked as an arts writer and critic since 2007. She co-founded Seesaw and has been co-editing the platform since it went live in August 2017. As a freelancer she has written extensively for The West Australian and Dance Australia magazine, co-editing the latter from 2016 to 2019. Nina loves the swings because they take her closer to the sky.

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