Contemporary Dance 2.0

Hofesh Shechter II at the Battersea Arts Centre

Shechter II’s dazzling show is proof that the youth wing of the famous company is as dexterous as its progenitor.

Hofesh Shechter gifted the world with his eponymous company in 2008, enrapturing the dance scene. Since then, he has dazed audiences and yours truly. Now he turns his impassioned eye to the youth (how sweet) with Shechter II, selecting dancers aged between 18-25 from across the globe and developing them for two years. Building an army of little Shechters are we? Although they are hardly dance clones, as his style pedestalises (it’s a word, okay?) individuality and political awareness through movement.

The show is currently gracing the Battersea Arts Centre, before shooting up to Dance XChange Birmingham (24-25 November) for their last UK date prior to going international. The gloriously dilapidated BAC Grand Hall is pretty much left as it is, hosting only a polished floor, eight dancers, and original music and choreography by Shechter himself. Add Tom Visser‘s precise and impeccable lights, and Osnat Kelner’s flowing, multi-coloured streetwear costumes and Oh God! is it good. There my review ends, thank you for reading.

No nooo – we shall dive in further. As with so much that Shechter creates, it would be unwise to view a lack of flashy embellishment as shallowness. Grouped into five parts, the dancers hold up handwritten signs, with titles such as “with feeling” and “pop”. The soundtrack ranges from the expected thumping techno to clacking percussion and a curse‑word-heavy rap monologue that makes the school children in front of me almost combust with semi-contained laughter. Finally, classical music and Frank Sinatra’s My Way pull together an evening so tongue-in-cheek it is at risk of displacing a filling.

Ever refusing to be defined, Shechter’s vision is alive with nodding irony and physical winks to other genres. Throughout, with the casual aesthetic of Kelner’s mid 90’s club kid garments, Visser’s gloomy catacomb-like lighting, and maybe the dancers’ youth, we get the vitality of a night on the town.

Jabbing gun fingers and two-stepping skanking are elevated, blossoming into high art. Voguing and confident sexuality spring out from the jumping, squirming throngs of the dancers, joyously fluxing in and out of grid-like formations. Small, slight movements we civilian revellers use as stop gaps are taken up by the collective company, spun into a sequence of rare corporeal grace. One minute we can feel the hot sweat of the masses in Fabric’s club basement, next the lights open out and a cultish circle of bodies prance around an accused individual in the centre.

They move with youth and hope in their bones, making mine feel tired in comparison (and I’m sat down): so much to prove, but with a certain aimlessness of theme, as shown in the peace sign held up perplexingly in the middle of a rather aggressive section.

Tristan Carter is one to watch, long braided hair swinging as his body arches into the most fantastical shapes, along with Oscar Jinghu Li and his expressive clown-like gambolling. Every single dancer – Cristel de FrankrijkerJustine GouacheZakarius HarryAlex HaskinsKeanah Faith Simin, and Chanel Vyent – is bursting at the seams with physical humour and rippling verve.

Highlights are the sections of the more challenging pieces – the classical music and My Way; a wonderful ending to an evening bucking the trend of contemporary ballet in the most knowing way. Exploding with vibrating power, they are energised into action by conflicting impetus. Despite a rather indulgent (seemingly never-ending) bowing section and a small dip in momentum just before the final scene, this batch of Shechter’s devotees are ready for their close-up (Mr DeMille).