Hofesh Shechter is a choreographer known for creating potent dance works, which reflect on the nature of power and its impact over the individual. Following the line of his previous Uprising (2006) and Political Mother (2010), Sun (2013) is a complex, dark and pessimistic meditation on evil and its shattering effects. As enigmatic and dense as its preceding productions, Sun shifts the focus slightly, to more abstract and less political content. Yet Shechter still dwells on the area of defenceless human beings at the mercy of ruthless forces.

© Gabriele Zucca
© Gabriele Zucca

Sun starts with a joke, which installs in the audience a relaxing mood that only lasts for a few moments. As soon as it has elicited a positive response, it is over. The audience is left absolutely unprepared for the tough emotional journey it introduces. This opening device matches perfectly with the impending and menacing power Sun depicts. Striking on humanity when is less expected, it is, like the unexpected dark tone of Sun after its humorous start, devastating.

The elements Shechter uses to build his new production are familiar for his followers. Music and dance simultaneously combine contemporary and folk ingredients, and the lighting design plays an important role in the piece. The music, composed by Shechter, has a metallic, percussive, and authoritative presence. Complemented by disturbing noises, piercing screams and contrasting harmonious melodies by Irving Berlin and Richard Wagner, Shechter's music leads the production through turbulent moods.

The choreography, equally, possesses contrasting qualities. Contemporary dance dominates the work, but it is frequently peppered with folk dance motifs. Bent knees and arms, praying to the sky, accentuate the doomed fate of humanity and its mysterious origin. Shechter's potent, physical choreography is executed the dancers with vitality, clarity and dynamism. Each performer retains his or her own individual style, which prevents the precise, quick choreography from looking mechanic and uniform.

The lighting is designed to mark sharp contrasts between brightness and darkness. In a production where the set is nude and the costumes have light colours, the alternation between obscurity, semi-darkness and sheer light, provide both atmosphere and perspective. By directing the focus to specific movements or dancers, it guides the episodic development of the piece. And yes, there is a sun in Sun. However, it only projects a pale orange light or a cold extreme brightness, and has a negative connotation. This light recurs in the piece to mark the start of a new phase, but since each new episode only repeats the same pattern of quietness, menace, chaos and destruction of the previous one, Sun’s sun is not a herald of an inspiring new dawn. Far from being cathartic and comforting, it just signals the distressing beginning of a new period of suffering. Schechter’s is not a sun that stands for hope.

Overall, Sun is another blunt and forceful piece of dancing, in tune with the powerful previous works in the repertory of its choreographer. What is new in this piece is an unhurried pace that favours reflection. Pauses, silences, and stillness are cleverly intermingled in the quick succession of motifs, phrases, and steps that characterizes Shechter’s style. This extra time for the absorption of thoughts and emotions is very welcome in such a multi-layered, rich, dynamic and punchy choreography.

*****