A tale told in mirages, the dance-theater piece Political Mother is accompanied by live rock musicians and military drums. Props—a monster mask, a gun and a sword—are lined up like a series of gritty punctuations within a flip book of tableaux. This melodrama, by UK-based choreographer Hofesh Schecter (making its New York premiere at BAM), bravely outlines a journey of radical individualism in the face of belonging. Iconic-seeming images of a lead singer and a speechifying politician hang fervent alongside a choir of dancers falling in and out of unison. As these images begin to overlap and retract, a pattern of rage, rock and recover seems to drive the work, building to an ending you won’t forget—and, in fact, already know.
The theater is suspended in fog as the piece opens; distant music is followed by a sort of title page. The words “Political Mother” appear, as does a single warrior who unsheathes his sword. As quickly as we are ushered into this tall tale, the tableau is interrupted by a rock bomb, musicians in their own spotlights, alone with their electric guitar or drum. These scenes flash against a few duets and solos, but mostly group dance-work in which a repeated vocabulary of movement is established. Dancers brilliantly flock in and out of dance-language that both stings and sings; a large emotional range is accomplished within a small, specific framework.
The dancing acts as a workload of full-bodied gesture, both being carried and carrying the movers throughout the piece. Folk dance teems on the edge of full-fledged rock spasms, the rhythmic steps accelerating. At times scampering and dumb, the dancers move with hunched backs and shuffling feet, and yet seamlessly turn these possessed and almost comical twitches of the body into more virtuosic articulations. They become dancing flames, rippling from their cores to full surrender, arms suspended in the air. The group arranges in patterns across the stage, mapping a road which all veer from but are ultimately assigned to. As the work nears an end you fear the resolution, you fear no resolution; however, several surprise elements leave you with a strange acceptance.
These dialed-up theatrics—loud music, fervent dancing and epic lighting—create a sensationalism that is both silly and sincere. The dancers become both worshipers and warriors, acting against and as part of a theater of politics. Israeli-born and UK-based, Schecter first began his dance career with Batsheva Dance Company in Tel Aviv and began his showing his own work in the UK by 2003. As a former rocker himself, he also contributed to the score. The strong rhythms that pulse through the work challenge us to hear music through noise, to see people through bodies, to survive some sort of necessary violence. Schecter succeeds in depicting this brutality in belonging.
The Hofesh Schecter Company performs Political Mother tonight and tomorrow at BAM. More info here.
Full disclosure: The L Magazine publishes the programs for BAM.