Newly ordered disorder (not yet fully aligned)

Political Mother – The Choreographer’s Cut by Hofesh Shechter rocks! That can be taken literally, in terms of the acoustic score, as well read in the visuals. The piece conveys an eclectically figurative language like one might know from a graphic novel. It is a composite of wild action seemingly excerpted from a Japanese manga, energetic pulsating rhythms dominated by heavy drums, dark scenes partially illuminated by directed light spots that design the stage, fragmented dance miniatures
emerging from the surrounding murkiness, and sharp cuts to new frames abruptly change the scene. This all is performed within an as-of-yet unperceived diversity of movement. Thrillingly acted out by a dancing crowd which constantly seems to fall apart only to just appear the next moment being in perfect sync again.

Basically all this is thrown at the feet of the overwhelmed and amazed onlooker. Comfortable seating for the audience to lean back and watch the dancers sweat were not available. On the demand of H. Shechter all seating had been removed from the main auditorium of the Haus der Berliner Festspiele, a post-war modernist architecture theater building. It was a good tactic. Already while waiting for the piece to start, the usually decently behaving theater audience showed a more concert-like impatience in making their excitement audible. Which is in accord with the type of having a “very free environment” the choreographer wants the audience to experience. Standing here is understood as an act to create an environment that allows movement and brings the body of the viewer into a position that is more likely to allow them to react intuitively to the movements seen on stage. “For me, success would be the audience forgetting themselves in the intellectual sense, losing the judging part of the brain.” Shechter says.

This statement sounds ambiguous, however it also points to the current understandings of embodiment inspired by neuroscientific research. It conveys the viewpoint that determines our body determines as the crucial interface to access and define the surrounding world. This view stands quite in opposition to the Cartesian dualism, though researchers from various fields among them sociological, philosophical, and cognitive science have begun to think of our bodies as being infraction in the environment; they interact as bodies, not just through what comes with the five senses (E. Gendlin) . This is congruent with the insight that cognition evolves from the physical embodiment of sensations. Shechter wants his audience to ‘lose themselves inside this massive sound, movement, visuals, whatever emotions it brings. It’s when the carpet is dragged really quickly from under your thinking mind and you experience a powerful emotion without seeing it coming.’

Though is this young choreographer already transposing the latest academic hype? Is it a dancer’s body-based intuition, or did he just find an inevitable way to wash out our minds? Mine he certainly blew. It is quite something to leave the theater hall, with the feeling that an entire re-adjustment of the orientation has to be done. Am I just walking away from a dark, loud concert place somewhere out there, whatever city that was, but certainly not my current home town? Oh, it’s the theater foyer in Berlin as we know it – strange.

“Where there is pressure, there is folk dance.”, is except for the title, the only literal statement that is lit up during the performance and certainly it makes sense these days. Just look at the Guy Fawkes masks on the streets used by the anonymous/occupy movement. Is there any analogy between the crowds I see on BBC world or CNN or Al Jazeera English to those on stage? There are resemblances, a certain order of behavior, something eventually not quite understandable at the first glance. Certainly there is an expression, something new we have to learn to read. It seems to be important. Why else would such masses be on the move. What is the meaning of that specific body language? All these bodies we see via news media channels as revolting masses are literally shoving out of the fixed frames which determine their lives. Information that became available over digital devices brings them together in the streets. But it is this embodiment of another possibility out there in space that encourages them to tackle confined socio-political and cultural frontiers. And some of this is suggested in the semblance of this evening’s dancing motion – bodies in wild rhythm, each in its own language and then suddenly finding into a common motion.

Encounters of the dancers in “Political Mother” were rare, only when sometimes they bumped hard into each other. Usually they were moving with their shoulders folded forward. An attitude that recalls inmates, if not just suppressed creatures. It almost looked like they perform in their own clothes, a random mix like a street crowd. There was also quite some tension, even aggression evident. Everyone was positioned in their own individual space, seemingly unconnected to the others and behaving as if to be ecstatically working out: is that allowed to say? Their motion seemed so different – what are they doing with their arms, how they fold the action in, how they stretch from impulse, the all-over behavior of approaching and playing off their bodies. Where does this excitement stem from? The single steps don’t look that extraordinary – knees up into the air, fists clenched, arms raised as if in desperation. All athletic but played down. It is a search to free that energy most young bodies desire to express their sense of being that is transposed here rather then an ostentation of discipline. It is a discrete, fragmented and sophisticated body language, not quite decipherable yet. And then all of a sudden they tumble into these folkloristic swings, as groups, some made out of the many or sometimes all of them. From the randomized set of behaviors they suddenly emerge into an impressive synchronization.

The only chance we had to understand, I think, was through the excitement we felt in our own bodies while watching that spectacle. There is no other way when you still have to learn the pronunciation of single syllables to reassess expression through gestures. It was a stunning evening of a newly ordered disorder. Certainly there was no intention by the company to bring it into the known by explanation. The audience had to find a different angle of access.

That far I understood. But what do they decide to do at the end, during our ‘standing’ ovations, (don’t forget we were standing all the time)? Obvious arrangements of curtsey! Well, it is the Choreographer’s Cut and that is the company’s way to tell us that they are serious about introducing a quite divergent attitude. It has been a communication between interfaces, constituted in the bodies of objects and subjects, between the action on stage and the motion in the auditorium. Their final reminder of the curtsey displayed the institutional frame in its persistence and relocated our awareness. It was a strong address. An inside instigation urging to be continued.

Guardian: Hofesh Shechter: his dark materials

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