Hofesh Shechter Company: Double Murder – Sadler’s Wells, London

Reviewer: Richard Maguire

Choreographer and Music: Hofesh Shechter

Although billed as world premiere, the first half of this double bill will be familiar to fans of choreographer Hofesh Schechter. Clowns, comic and macabre, is a series of executions, but it is Shechter’s newest piece The Fix that really surprises. Unabashedly sentimental, The Fix is both redemptive and cleansing.

2016’s Clowns begins with the can-can, but instead of kicking their legs in the air, the 10 dancers adopt the slouched walking jig, the trademark move that appears in much of Shechter’s work. If zombies had rhythm maybe this is how they would dance. It looks like a tribal stomp or a crazed St Vitus dance. It’s uniquely idiosyncratic, but almost impossible to describe.

When the can-can ends, Shechter’s music takes over, and like the choreography it resembles a jig; it would be uplifting if it weren’t so relentless. Flashes of pure ballet and low-waisted jazz hands give way to more violent acts carried out in pantomime fashion. Dancers are garrotted. Dancers are stabbed in the chest. Dancers are shot in the head.

Dressed elegantly in tans and whites, some look like 19th century peasants while others more smartly could be Romantic poets. Cleverly, a red tie here and a red pair of trousers there suggest the splashes of blood that we never see. Lee Curran’s lighting design moves us from scene to scene in a blink of an eye, capturing the dancers preparing for yet another assassination. This sly examination of our interest in murder is heady and infectious.

At first The Fix, for seven dancers, seems little different from the dance before. Sure, the dancers are wearing more ordinary clothes, but the slouched jig reappears almost instantly. The performers intertwine as before, but slowly through the melee of bodies it’s clear that this time they aren’t trying to kill each other. Instead, the dance is full of love. The dancers embrace, throwing arms round each other in gestures of care.

There are moments of utter stillness as the dancers come to the front of the stage, staring at the audience. They don’t smile but their delicate movements intimate concern and understanding. At one point the dancers sit cross-legged with their eyes closed as if in meditation, and it’s an image that you wish would continue. Tom Visser’s lights indicate dawn, a new chance while Shechter’s music moves from a tuneless pulse to a kind of chant that some audience members echoed as the show finished. You leave refreshed, alive and a little changed.

Runs until 18 September 2021

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The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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