Considering his near-legendary status, we've actually seen very few works by Hofesh Shechter over the past ten years, so In Good Company, a showcase of works by several of his dancers, could have been seen as an opportunity for Hofesh's diehard fans to explore more of his style, as interpreted by his dancers. Certainly it would have been unrealistic to expect the dancers to not have been influenced by Hofesh's distinctive style - Philip Hulford and guest artist Christopher Evans both joined the company in 2006, Sita Ostheimer in 2008, Yeji Kim in 2010 and both James Finnemore and Sam Coren in 2011 - and while the highlights of the night were the choreographers finding their own unique voices, the show was nevertheless filled with powerful and impressive dancing.
The most distinctive work of the evening was Sam Coren's 'No Way But Down', which saw him reunite with his 2009 collaborative partner Kasper Hansen, now an international set and costume designer. Their first joint work, back in 2009, was part of London Contemporary Dance School's collaboration with Wimbledon School of Art, resulting in the hilarious and very theatrical Intrepid Exploring (video), which earned them a comparison with New Art Club. 'No Way But Down' offered the audience to see how the pair had evolved and matured over the past three years, and certainly it's a very assured and confident work, not compromising to provide more (any) dance content.
No Way But Down was about a solitary homeless man, portrayed by Igor Urzelai (one of The Place's Work Place artists), and his loneliness and isolation, alleviated in part by various props. Humour was provided when Urzelai, eating from a can of baked beans, found his spoon attacking him, followed by his hand throwing the contents of the can in his face. The most touching moments of the piece were in Urzelai's interactions with a pair of hoodies, looking longingly at the first one and pulling its sleeve around him in an embrace, then laying another one beside it on the ground so that one appeared to be spooning the other.
While an interesting and certainly the most creative work of the evening, No Way But Down engaged the audience the least, and sat somewhat uncomfortably with the rest of the programme.
The other individual voice of the evening was James Finnemore, a far more experimental work than last year's solo 'Patriot', but still using a similar movement style. 'The Age' was created in three sections, with the first section by far the most enjoyable of the three. The opening section used very stilting and controlled movements, with dancers Victoria Hoyland and Philip Hulford resembling music box dolls. Although dim lighting and electronic music with pronounced drumbeats were used throughout the evening, in The Age, it had the effect of making the piece more compelling to watch, forcing the audience to watch more closely in case they should miss any of the slight movements. When the dancers made the transition to non-mechanical movement, it was in short bursts, but using a very free and loose movement style, far more reminiscent of Patriot than of Shechter's style. As with Patriot, this style is captivating, and it's to be hoped that Finnemore has ample opportunities to develop his choreographic voice further, as he's definitely one to watch.
The rest of the works were less successful choreographically. The closing work was Accompany by Sita Ostheimer and Christopher Evans; "Sita and Chris are a couple" were the sole programme notes for this work, a very improvised and playful piece about creating the piece itself: in lieu of music, the soundtrack was of Christopher and Sita themselves discussing and discarding choreographic ideas. In the opening scene, Sita's movement style was aggressive and confrontational, drawing on martial arts, and her dancing retained an element of aggression throughout the piece, alternating with a frenzied improvised style while Evans - dancing alone, sometimes joining her, sometimes dancing alongside her - was almost simian in his movements. There was plenty of humour to engage the audience, as well as the threat of being dragged on stage, and despite the slightness of the work, it was clear that this was the audience favourite of the evening.
Yeji Kim's 'Last of his act' had the most copious programme notes of all five works, and indicated that the piece would be an exploration of Woman, and it developed slowly, initially with Yeji Kim and Sita Ostheimer gradually shifting between embraces, then tango-infused duets, finally culminating in Hofesh-style frenzied movement. Kim managed to blend Earth Goddess with animalistic movements in her choreography, although it was weakened by the false ending and staggered final section.
Philip Hulford, in 'lukewarm and loving it', managed to develop the most interesting relationships between his three dancers - Frederic Despierre, Karima El Amrani and Hannah Shepherd - with one of the women, dressed in a purple sweatshirt, cast as the nominal outsider, rebuffing the others' attempts to include her, yet occasionally approaching them of her own volition. Over the course of the work, Hulford explored the shifting relationships between the three dancers using very vigorous and physical choreography, while the most haunting moment was of the woman in purple dancing a solo, lit by an old-fashioned floor lamp, watched by the other two dancers. The only thing letting down this piece was its vivid echoes of Shechter's Political Mother; the structure and ideas more than prove Hulford's choreographic abilities, it just remains for him to find a voice of his own.
Thanks should be given to Hofesh Shechter for providing his dancers with this opportunity to develop themselves further as artists, and to South East Dance, the Jerwood Charitable Foundation, Brighton Dome and Jacksons Lane for providing the dancers with the resources to create these works. Let's see what the future holds for them.