Hofesh Shechter’s “Sun” at BAM

Hofesh Shechter's "Sun", photo by Gabriele Zucca
Hofesh Shechter’s “Sun”, photo by Gabriele Zucca

Before the start of Hofesh Shechter’s Sun, which made its US debut at BAM last week, the London-based Israeli choreographer told the audience that we would see a brief excerpt from the end of the piece before it actually started. This was to assure us that “everything is going to be just fine”. Nervous laughter ensued. 

If Shechter’s Political Mother (performed last fall at BAM) is any indication, the choreographer enjoys juxtaposing playfulness with darker topics, accompanied by loud music. Very loud. These elements were all at play in Sun, and Shechter’s message was all too clear: the world is troubled, dangerous, and wrongs have been committed. This is most evident in his use of life-size cutouts of sheep, whose peaceful grazing is interrupted by a wolf. Later, a cutout of a colonizer confronts cutouts of indigenous hunters, and a modern-day businessman and a hooded, modern-day teen are positioned side by side. Each confrontation is pierced by a scream from an actress sitting in the audience, pointing at the stage with terror in her eyes.

Interspersed among these messages, which mostly attract laughs from the audience, are Shechter’s seventeen dancers, who move as an ensemble, hunched over with bent knees as they sweep or shuffle across the stage. Under a grid of light bulbs that bathe them in gold, the dancers shift from formal court-like patterns to messy entanglements that demonstrate violence and promiscuity. Framing these vignettes is Shechter’s ominous, jarring score, which is spliced together with eclectic choices including Wagner’s Tannhauser, an excerpt from Sigur Ros, and Irving Berlin’s “Let’s Face the Music and Dance”.

Sun is endlessly chaotic, with too many threads that never coalesce. And yet, Shechter’s message is obvious, as it was in Political Mother. And it’s nothing we don’t already know: all is not well with just about everything under the sun.

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