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Grand Finale

Sydney Opera House presents GRAND FINALE from the Hofesh Shechter Company, in the Drama Theatre, at the Sydney Opera House. 29th January - 2nd February.

GRAND FINALE is the third work presented by the Sydney Opera House of the Hofesh Shechter Company: a dance company based in the United Kingdom, with an international cast of nine dancers and five musicians from France,Taiwan, United Kingdom, Poland, Belgium, Republic of Korea, Singapore and Scotland, led by Hofesh Shechter, an Israeli whose origin/training was with the Batsheva Dance Company in Tel Aviv. They are now resident at Brighton Dome and Shechter is an Associate Artist of Sadler’s Wells.

In 2010 he created POLITICAL MOTHER, and in 2014, SUN (both seen in Sydney). Olivia Ansell, Sydney Opera House’s Head of Contemporary Performance tells us in the program notes (a free program?! AMAZING. Something free from the Sydney Opera House Trust management – there will probably be an internal inquiry as to how that Happened! For, of course we still had to pay the TAX they call a Booking fee.) : ‘ As we struggle with political and environmental crisis, GRAND FINALE is timely. Shechter’s latest work addresses civil collapse, ecological disaster and humanity’s demise. Shechter stares unflinchingly into the void and creates a masterful dance for the dark. Equal parts lyrical musical performance, theatrical experience and manic celebration, GRAND FINALE is an electrifying post-apocalyptic tale of euphoria, surrender and doom.’

It is, as well, I reckon, a simply marvellous emotional high – one comes out feeling there is hope in the world if work like this can be created in our stressful ugly time.

Using the vast width of the Drama Theatre stage and its depth, the consequent black void is wreathed in dense haze illuminated through with a moving lighting design (Tom Visser) of red, yellow and orange streaming (lightening strikes) through the murk that is moved around by the whirl and hurl of the extraordinary flexible writhing bodies of the dance company: moving, collapsing, falling, collectively as one, or in many combinations of solo, duo, trios etc, with impressive large gesture of the whole body to meticulous hand, wrist, neck detailed choices (a la Fosse), dressed in a range of magnificently selected contemporary styles and clothing combinations (bare feet). The set has moveable black oblongs reminiscent of the wall shapes that have divided the Palestinian and Israeli Territories, or abstractly, for me, to 2001 A SPACE ODYSSEY, as my imagination reached back to the mysterious black oblongs standing as a radiating force in unexpected places in the Kubrick scenario (Set and Costume design by Tom Scutt).

The vitality and challenge of the choreography is dazzling and presents a thrilling intellectual puzzlement of true non-verbal communication, that keeps one on edge and in the moment in the pursuit of understanding if there was significance, with the dancers and the choreographic offers, enlivened by a moving orchestra of five creating live in a sound surround of a compelling, vibrating electro-acoustic score and its effective atmosphere (music by Hofesh Shechter and Music collaborators Yaron Engler and Nell Catchpole).

All the senses are properly engaged by light and sound into a subjective emotional state that kept one enthralled throughout the two halves of the work. The live orchestra (almost a klezmer band – James Adams, Christopher Allan, Rebekah Allan, Sabie Janiak and Desmond Neysmith) clearly love their  role in the energising of this performance, and of us, directly, in a wonderfully silly interactive collusion in the interval – “sing, hum along with us!” They play lengthily a romantic selection from Lehar’s THE MERRY WIDOW throughout the first half. (Hey, could I be seduced as well by any other piece of musical kitsch? Answer: probably not.) I was pitched into a kind of irresistible euphoric emotional rapture and couldn’t have enough of it – whilst being surrounded by the most contemporary propulsive electronic composition – the mixture of the old and new acoustic compositions was spectacularly successful.

GRAND FINALE was simply an extraordinary experience for the senses and intellect that was both confronting with its imagery and messages and yet full of the hope that the good spirit of the human may still shine through the murk of the destruction we are causing to the planet and to our species’ moral ethical guidelines. The company in the despair of the present demonstrated with striking beauty of sight and sound images, to give us a faith that we might hope that we, as a species, will (can) come to our senses. Our possibility of invention is available if we wish it.

I rushed straight to my iPhone and messaged as many of my friends as possible to buy a ticket and see this work. It was without doubt a creation worth sharing and celebrating even in the distressing journey, to get  there, one would have to make through the smoke haze of our outside atmosphere, the leftovers of the terrible cataclysmic fires that had erupted all around us (now, water and rain – floods).

GRAND FINALE is why one goes to the theatre. I expected nothing, necessarily, but received much. A greatness that will live in my memory banks and the gift of a hope that was translated into an emotional, intellectual confidence, that seemed to signal the possibility of survival. In all the honest striving of our artistic brothers and sisters there is never any guarantee that it will succeed. And we, who go to the theatre often enough can testify to that. Many more misses than hits. Ha, ha. There is absolutely no guarantee that the application of practised Craft will metamorphose into Art – but when it does manifest it can compensate for all those other honest failures that we have supported and endured. All of my contacted friends who got to the Drama theatre agreed with me. The audience I was with on that fortunate night certainly did as well. (How did I know to go – I didn’t – this was a belated Christmas gift from my dear friend Kate – it was the grandest gift of the season, thank you. What a friend, eh? Spoilt.)

GRAND FINALE, simply breathtaking. Craft becoming Art.