Bright star brings Sun – a review of “Sun” by Hofesh Shechter
By Dena Jones
The European premiere of Hofesh Shechter’s “Sun” took place in Luxembourg on Friday night. Shechter is a bright star in the dance world and his latest piece is a complex and ambitious presentation.
Rollercoaster of emotions
At the start, the audience is kindly reassured that “everything is going to be OK” before being taken on a rollercoaster of impressions, many which indicate the contrary. Indeed the piece itself is full of contradictions—light and dark, silence and screaming, stillness and manic movement. There is humour, but it is always tempered with the reminder that darkness is never far away.
Shechter’s talent extends both to writing most of the music for the piece and the choreography. The music in many sections evokes tribal, aboriginal music. (The piece had its World premiere in Melbourne, Australia, earlier in the month.) The drums and the didgeridoo share the evening with Mahler and Irving Berlin, strange bedfellows, but Sun is full of surprises.
Sheep ballet, technical proficiency
At various times, larger than life cut-outs of sheep are used to set the scene for what may be a pastoral idyll, but the wolf is never far away. As the piece progresses and the audience become familiar with the sheep ballet, the illusion is deliberately shattered. The sheep are simply props manipulated by the dancers. Which side is the reality? We must draw our own conclusions. The cut-outs of the tribal natives and the colonial, the hoody wearer and the businessman, join together with the sheep and the wolf in a mad swirl of frenetic energy. It is not easy to follow; the best way to keep up is not to try but to simply be open to the impressions presented.
While the narrative flow may be difficult to discern, the technical proficiency of the piece is without question. The sixteen dancers are charged with energy and the stage pictures form and reform beautifully. Given the obvious talent of the company, it would have been good to see the dancers stretched more in the movements. Often an appreciation of a dance piece lies in the audience lay member not really quite understanding how a human body could actually do that, and more of that would have been good here.
The costumes are gorgeous—pale hued shades with styles invoking the traditional motley, a pirate, the ringmaster and braces-wearing workers. Complementing it all was the exceptional lighting design. A forest of naked bulbs hung over the stage was used to show the sun, the stars and, in one remarkable scene, the illusion that man can orchestrate it all just by waving his arms.
Journey as destination
At the end of this powerful piece with all its contradictions, the audience may not leave feeling that everything is “OK”. But just as the journey is said to be the destination, being present here is more important than understanding any conclusions which may be drawn from it. Definitely worth the ride.