It’s easy to feel like the world is on the brink of oblivion sometimes. With a political backdrop drenched in uncertainty and confusion, you could be forgiven for wondering why we should keep making art at all.

© Rahi Rezvani
© Rahi Rezvani

Hofesh Shechter’s newest work, Grand Finale, provides an answer, and poses some questions of its own. In line with his other politically-charged dances, the work opens with quickfire ensemble work; a tangle of fluid limbs in which we see the dancers not as individuals but as a many-headed violent mass. The pace is fast and furious, until suddenly the dancers freeze, transforming into bronze statues of heroes and martyrs installed in town squares for pigeons to defecate on for the generations ahead.

Shechter says in the programme notes: “I was curious observing the news that there’s this sense that things get out of control and people get panicked or excited. Everything collapses but it’s almost like a celebration. It’s a chaotic state of being, it’s an apocalypse, and yet there is something amusing about it. Perhaps from an optimistic point of view, it’s part of the cycle of life and evolution. Things collapse, and then we build them back up again.”

Grand Finale is about pain and suffering – yes – but equally it’s about humour, tenacity and the value of laughing in the face of carnage. Is it a eulogy to humanity? Maybe. Maybe not.

There seems to be subtle nods in the movement vocabulary to traditional Native American, African American, Israeli, Shaolin and Indian dance styles. Amongst these elements are the bloody mechanisms of war and chaos; a gloves-off history of the world up to this very moment in time. We see soundless screams and fresh “cadavers,” all stockinged feet and malleable limbs as they’re manipulated, caressed, held tenderly and with the utmost of care.

© Rahi Rezvani
© Rahi Rezvani

The score, by Shechter and musical collaborators Nell Catchpole and Yaron Engler, is mostly performed live onstage by tuxedoed musicians performing on synth and classical strings. Sprinkled throughout are snatches of existing classical compositions, including the famous waltz from that fluffiest of operettas, the Merry Widow. Like the orchestra on the sinking Titanic, the musicians play until the end, through the dusty light and into the very face of destruction.

Grand Finale finishes with a series of intimate and extremely human vignettes performed in close spaces; evoking a dance party, a kiss, a waltz. The dancers, about whom I cannot say enough good things, are at the height of their powers and it’s a privilege to watch them. And I would venture to say that Hofesh Shechter has fully succeeded in creating and maintaining his own choreographic language.

Make no mistake, this is a piece for our times. Grand Finale proves a compelling point; there has never been a time that we’ve needed art more than right now. In a post-truth era, it could be our very last foothold.

*****