It’s not often that dancers are given free reign to create new works of their own, and even rarer that they get all the support necessary to make fully-realised, successful pieces. That’s why In Good Company, the project enabling dancers of the Hofesh Shechter Company to present their own works, is so special. Six budding choreographers show five unique dance pieces and one enthralling film in the third incarnation of In Good Company at The Place, London this weekend.

Skinship © Tom Medwell
Skinship
© Tom Medwell

The scope of individual creativity shown by the Hofesh Shechter Company dancers is vast. Each choreographic voice is spirited, talented and unadulterated. Every work is engaging and challenging, using strong ideas to experiment with an array of media. Kim Kohlmann’s Skinship was the choreographic standout of the evening for me. A dynamic duet between Kohlmann and Aimee Lagrange develops from a slow, slithering awakening to the trilling sound of cicadas into something vivid, energetic and bizarre. Their legs swing as if on a pendulum, the pair are sinewy, almost Ostrich-like in their vast extensions. It’s all so quick their movements are hard to grasp, but flashes of strange inspiration stand out. They side-step low to the ground, covering one nostril and then the other, in unison (my notes say “yoga nose”). Their oddity is matched only by each other, and they appear the perfect pair.

The somewhat complex set of Skinship – a tent of camouflage netting – goes almost unused beyond breaking up the flat terrain of the stage. Sam Coren’s Gully, however, uses set and props to create a fascinating, science fiction style landscape in which a curious narrative develops. Taking cue from what sounds like a wartime record, four performers bounce and shake in a Pavlovian fit. They collect glowing balloons like children from a playpen – the balloons have faces and seem lit from within. Their post-apocalyptic existence seemingly revolves around this duty, broken at the close by Philip Hulford, who defies the sounds of trumpets, drowns and pops his balloon.

Hofesh Shechter Company © Tom Medwell
Hofesh Shechter Company
© Tom Medwell

Bruno Guillore’s Pandemonium uses innovative lighting and costume to transform two dancers into a pair of ape-like creatures discovering sexual urges – and later, pregnancy and parenthood – for the first time. Much of the piece is back-lit, so the sexual encounters between two beasts often occur in silhouette, making them particularly graphic and rather shocking. It’s obvious that these dancers feel au fait with making their audience feel uncomfortable, as several of these works do just that.

Maëva Berthelot explores ideas of memory, identity and duality through the medium of film in her extraordinary Doppel!. Berthelot weaves not so much a narrative but an idea as she stumbles through a wood and city, almost delirious. Choreography is enhanced here by the technical possibilities of film. All sense of chronology – and with it, identity – is confused through flashback and reverse motion filming.

Confusion continues with Frédéric Despierre’s What if Dog Was One of Us?, which uses voiceover to establish doubt, calling into question the way performance art is made by first taking away the performer’s freedom and then his voice too. The overhead narrator (Chris Evans) controls on-stage performer Diogo Sousa through a recording. It’s an awkward process to behold, but the audience’s nervous laughter becomes genuine very quickly. It’s not often that dance is this metatheatrical, but nor is it common for dance to be so inexplicably hilarious.

Live music performed by the choreographer was a delight in Sita Ostheimer’s Dissimilar Foxes. A couple danced out a wonderful lizardy duet, slithering in and out of one anothers’ grasp as Ostheimer sang from centre stage, accompanied by Adrien Casalis. The dancers’ movements – momentarily tribal, often desperately seeking one another – reflected the song lyrics, rotating around the central square of light housing guitarist and singer.

This evening of experimentation showcased a wonderful array of creative talent among the dancers of Hofesh Shechter Company. No two used the same techniques, or even same media, to express their unique individual concepts. None followed a distinct narrative, instead working outward from a question or point of curiosity to establish a sense of purpose in the works. Performing in their own and one another’s works, these six dancers are brimming with skill and individuality. 

***11