Director: Hofesh Shechter
Choreographers: Hofesh Shechter, Becky Namgauds, Duwane Taylor, James Finnemore, and Joseph Toonga
Reviewer: Richard Maguire
Marching bands and dancing clowns come to the Tower of London in the last event of this year’s successful Lift Festival. Directed by Hofesh Shechter, the most exciting choreographer of recent years, East Wall is a dance extravaganza at one of the world’s most iconic sites.
Alongside Shechter’s own company, this hour-long show features over 100 other dancers from various London dance groups, who have all benefitted from the Israeli-born choreographer’s involvement. Over six short pieces, these talented companies light up the East Wall and moat of the Tower of London. What was once full of poppies in 2014 is now full of dancers.
While all the dance companies bring a certain urban grittiness to this most majestic of places – especially the fierce Latin-infused marching choreographed by Duwane Taylor – East Wall doesn’t ignore the Tower of London’s long history as the busby-hatted Band of the Irish Guards begin proceedings with a fine display of pomp and circumstance.
After this grandiose start, the dancers rip up the wide stage, each performance unique, but each performance overflowing with youthful vitality: many of these dancers are still schoolchildren. Joseph Toonga’s dance, featuring Big Deal Dance and Just Us Collective, is, at times, moving and, at other times, wild, as dancers dressed like doctors shuffle crazily across the stage. In contrast, James Finnemore’s dance with Incognito Dance Company and Shift Dance Company is delicate and as one dancer remains still, the other performers play at an elaborate extension of the old children’s game, Peek-Behind-the-Curtains. Becky Namgaud’s piece, involving three companies, has her dancers rolling elegantly across the stage before they appear to form mountains of heads and limbs, raising one cross-legged dancer to the sky.
One of Shechter’s own companies, Shechter II, comes on stage towards the end of the evening, reviving Clowns, last seen at the Hammersmith Lyric in May. Fusing folk and rave, Shechter’s dancers perform a series of executions in his trademark style, hands aloof, feet bouncing rhythmically, as clowns are garrotted, shot and electrocuted. While these ‘dead’ clowns soon leap up to re-join the jigging line, these spectacular killings may be difficult to explain to any children present.
As the last of the sun’s rays catch the walls of the Tower, every single dancer returns on stage to perform in the finale choreographed by Shechter. This riotous yet precise dance, in costumes designed by Louise Bennetts and the London College of Fashion, is so infectious that you, too, will want to storm the tower. When dance is as good as this, it can offer communal catharsis. And truly there’s no better setting than the Tower of London.
Runs until 22 July 2018 | Image: Richard Leahair