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Hofesh Shechter: Dance, Politics, and Apolitical Dance

On the heels of what may be considered a crucial election, Hofesh Shechter Company comes to Minneapolis with Political Mother.  In the newest installment of TALK DANCE, local dancer and choreographer Justin Jones interviews choreographer and artistic director Hofesh Shechter about politics, art, and influence. Born and raised in Jerusalem, Shechter grew up in a tense political […]

On the heels of what may be considered a crucial election, Hofesh Shechter Company comes to Minneapolis with Political Mother.  In the newest installment of TALK DANCE, local dancer and choreographer Justin Jones interviews choreographer and artistic director Hofesh Shechter about politics, art, and influence.

Born and raised in Jerusalem, Shechter grew up in a tense political environment, which he admits may have a subconscious impact on his work, as well as his worldview.  Growing up, Shechter began dancing Israeli folk dances, later joining Bat Sheva Dance Company, and then moved on to music, studying drumming.  Shechter’s diverse artistic background helps him draw inspiration from music, his childhood, his current outlook on dance and politics, relationships, his aesthetic preferences, and so much more.  Throughout the interview, he makes profound statements that are engaging, thought provoking, and often infuriating – at one point he claims that dance is apolitical!  In a revealing section, Jones and Shechter dig deep into the role of politics and society on relationships and the political process, which Shechter views as merely giving people the illusion of power and influence where perhaps they have none.

 

Justin Jones: One of the realities that I was noticing as I was watching a video of the work, was the reality of being part of a society and the reality of being part of a relationship between two people.  And the conflict and contrast between those two things and how large social movements have interesting and unexpected ramifications in your personal life or your relationships with just one person.  You really feel people existing in both of those situations simultaneously in the work.

Hofesh Shechter:  Yeah, I mean, you know, we can get into, sort of, philosophical conversations about it.  You could say that everything we do is defined by the society we grew in, and it’s pretty obvious.  But, to think that it also affects our most deep emotions, and the way that we treat each other, is just a bit of a scary thought.  And I think one of the questions Political Mother may raise to some people that watch it is whether the emotional connections we have with other people, how much of these are really affected by our social conditioning? And how much of it is actually natural, instinctive?  And how much of the natural and instinctive is being used and abused by the systems that ask us to serve them? So, I think it’s a very complex world of emotions and needs and conditioning.  Which, I don’t know if it has a real answer or solution, but I find that Political Mother may raise these questions for people that watch it – or these emotions.

JJ:  It’s really interesting to me, also, that this work is touring the United States very close to our election.  You brought up the word “need” and that is a word that I’ve read you using in interviews talking about neediness – the neediness between people and others, the neediness between people and their governments.  That’s actually become one of the main issues of our election, in the US, this idea role of government in our lives and how and should people depend on government or not.  I’m curious about how you relate to that issue in Britain.

HS: Oh, I don’t know, I’m not getting a lot into political conversations or arguments.  It feels to me that politics is a sort of like mask, a smoky – I don’t know how to put it – it’s a smoky thing.  As a democracy, it’s there to make us believe two basic things: one of them is that we are choosing the people that rule and, therefore, that we have a voice in making decisions – in the decision-making.  And I think both of these things are not true.  Because our choices are very limited, and I think the choices of the people that rule, that make the choices, are also very limited…  I think that we are grown to believe that there is a sense of freedom in our societies, which I personally don’t feel very strongly.  I actually feel that there are very strong sets of rules that if you don’t follow, you are being punished, quite vigorously.  So, you know, you can’t get into an argument with people about that.  People either believe that they are free or that they are not.  I think, to me, it’s pretty evident that governments are actually affecting each and every element of our lives.  Once you buy a house, once you pay your tax, once you have a child, once you go to the doctor, to the bank.  Once you go to work, the way it’s going to be handled, the transport, the taxes you pay for your roads, and how this is handled.  Every aspect of our lives is actually influenced and affected by decisions that governments make…  It’s my personal feeling that we, the small people, have very little influence on that decision-making – if any.  There is one way to look at it where it’s depressing; there is another way to look at it where maybe it doesn’t matter.   When you get into the world of art, which is maybe why I am in it, you do get into a place of extreme freedom, but it’s something to do with your internal world.  It’s a place where nobody can really reach.  It’s a way that you manage yourself, your emotions, your thoughts, the way that they happen.  So, there is a place where you can think about that for a long time that gets very depressed, or just let it be and deal with things that you feel are more hopeful and give you more freedom, which are perhaps more internal. (14:00 – 21:00)

 

You can listen to the full interview here.

Additionally, Shechter describes the collision of dance and music in Political Mother.  He explains how his experiences as a drummer brought him to England, influence his choreography, and drive the intense (and fast!) movement.  You can watch a preview of the work here.

Political Mother is co-presented with Northrop Dance at the Orpheum Theatre on Tuesday, November 13th at 7:30 pm.  Tickets are available via Ticketmaster/ Hennepin Theatre Trust or you can avoid processing fees by purchasing tickets in person at the State Theatre Box Office, 805 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, or by calling 612-339-7007.