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Respites, Clowns, and Curtain Down

To spark discussion, the Walker invites local artists and critics to write overnight reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions; it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of the Walker or its curators. Today, Penelope Freeh shares her perspective on Tuesday night’s performance of Political Mother by Hofesh […]

Photo: Simona Boccedi

To spark discussion, the Walker invites local artists and critics to write overnight reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions; it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of the Walker or its curators. Today, Penelope Freeh shares her perspective on Tuesday night’s performance of Political Mother by Hofesh Shechter Company. Agree or disagree? Feel free to share your thoughts in comments!

In Tuesday’s mail came my latest Obama/Biden bumper sticker, free due to my last-minute $10 contribution to the campaign. I knew it’d arrive after the election, but I wanted to contribute nonetheless. My politics would still be true, even if Obama lost. Sometimes things will still be true.

This is the case with Political Mother. What I mean is, though our recent election blessedly turned left, the subject matter of Political Mother is still true: there are harrowing from-the-top-down political scenarios and, sometimes, sufferers can see their way through to the other side.

What I mean is,

“Something’s lost but something’s gained in living every day.

I’ve looked at life from both sides now,

from win and lose, and still somehow

it’s life’s illusions I recall.

I really don’t know life at all.”

And perhaps it’s that notion of not yet knowing life that keeps the heart beating and seeking.

What I mean is, get a hold of Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now and listen, really feel that tune and those lyrics. Now, imagine you are an Israeli-born choreographer and musician. Make a dance/music hybrid extravaganza that deals with torture and social dynamics in general of all sorts, from cooperation to conflict, complete with top-down leadership bullshit yelled in amplitude and then wind it all up with that song. What I mean is, if you can do that, you will deserve all the acclaim. You will have delivered all the parts of your selfhood alongside your particular cultural experience. Your finale is Both Sides Now and, what I mean is, you will leave us with hope and something like astonishment.

Political Mother needed seatbelts. It certainly needed (and supplied) earplugs. Yet it offered respites, loud and quiet, from the holocausts. Movement shivered out of bodies in unlikely unisons. Folk dances craftily maneuvered patterns, breaking away and carving back into messy and organized folds. Duets emerged from the rubble of sound and furious repetition, taking us into problematic and irregular intimacies and stillnesses.

Stage pictures flowed like filmic montages. Music and sound were dramaturgic, hierarchical, and threatening. There were breathing spaces, too, like when the wind swept through and, for more than just a moment, nothing happened visually other than the dusty light beaming down. Dark, strobed and rock concert-y, the lighting, too, was toward a purpose. Dancers melted bonelessly, bounced listlessly. Limbs initiated or trailed, conducted or derailed. Like floppy clowns’ bodies ambulated and interacted, circling unseen mazes. It was like they had been there before, pawns of history. And indeed, they had.

Miraculously, through an earsplitting testosterone-driven wall of sound come the gentle strains, “Bows and flows of angel hair and ice cream castles in the air…” The dancers, in semi-darkness, are doing something familiar. In fast-forward, they cycle through every image we had seen thus far, but in retrograde. It was a visual and visionary re-wind. Sound cradled us finally instead of making us quake. Images passed across our view and we now had a stake in all that chronology. The curtain came down as the house lights came up. We were folded into the fold, on both sides now.

Photo: Ben Rudick