Painting a grand dream

Jerusalem-born choreographer Hofesh Shechter returns to Israel in the framework of the ‘London in Tel Aviv’ Festival.

(photo credit: RAHI REZVANI)
When choreographers talk about their creations, they often say that they’re like their children, that they love each one differently. But in his eyes, Hofesh Shechter’s works aren’t impressionable young things, they are grown individuals.
“A work is like a person; sometimes you like them, sometimes you don’t.”
Shechter, 44, is hailed as one of the most powerful choreographers of all time.
He was born and raised in Jerusalem. He played music and danced from an early age. Midway through his army service, Shechter moved to Tel Aviv in order to join the Batsheva Ensemble. Three years later, he left Israel to further his percussion studies in Paris. From France, he moved further west and back to dance, joining fellow Israeli Jasmin Vardimon’s company. In 2008, having created several critically acclaimed works, Shechter founded his company in London. He is the father of two daughters, aged five and seven.
“Finding a balance between being a dad and my work is really difficult. It’s not just about time but about energy management. I travel a lot, but I try not to go away for too long at once. When I’m in London and I’m with them, at bedtime for example, I give them my full attention. I think it’s important for them and for us to understand that it’s okay that their dad goes away for work and not to make it something negative or unaccepted,” he says.
Shechter sits on an usher’s chair outside the main hall of the Israeli Opera. It is midday and he is about to make his way back to London, following a press conference for the Virgin Atlantic Festival – London in Tel Aviv, which will take place in November. Shechter’s company will be the headlining act.
It has been a decade since Shechter last presented work in Israel, in which time his international reputation and success have grown exponentially. As things stand, before setting foot in the studio to create a new work, Shechter’s company has already secured budgets reaching into the hundreds of thousands of pounds and have sold tickets to see said production to audiences in dozens of cities around the globe.
“My work succeeded very quickly,” Shechter says. “Before I make a new piece for my company today, I know that 100,000 people have already bought tickets to see it. That is very humbling. I have to find the faith that I’ll find it and not worry that the work won’t come together.”
When he discusses his creative process, which encompasses the movement as well as the music, Shechter uses the words “faith” and “belief” often. Despite his stature and track record, which is impressive to say the least, creation is still an act that pushes him straight into the unknown.
“It’s like going into a dark room. You know you have a deadline and that you have to make something happen. I have to feel out what’s what. In every creation, I search for the heart of the work, I test how far I have to go to find that heart. In the end, I will have to come all the way back to make it come together. To me, failure isn’t about making a piece the audience didn’t love, it’s about not doing what I wanted to do.”
ON THIS visit, Shechter will bring “Grand Finale,” a work made for 10 dancers, five musicians and a large set comprised of moving sections of a wall.
“The piece speaks in the language of trauma. It’s like a party that is burning itself up. A last hurrah. There is a sense of being swept away, of things falling apart,” he told the press.
As in many of his previous works, the choreography and score were devised by Shechter over countless hours of tireless work.
“I develop the music and the movement together. It’s about creating an atmosphere, which I will always fail at, like trying to draw a dream you had. I fall in love with something, with a sound or a movement, I see images in my mind of dance and then I work to produce that thing that I have in mind. It is, as they would say in Hebrew, ant’s work. As I see it, the movement and music need each other. If I listen to the music without the music, I find it boring. And if I watch the movement without the music it doesn’t work for me. It works because of how everything connects. Like a great soup. If you took out one ingredient, it wouldn’t taste the same. It’s like soup.”
In “Grand Finale,” Shechter set out to create what he describes as a “monster of sound,” a cacophony that would engulf the dancers. The work does not aim to tell a specific story, rather to offer the audience a collective experience of shared emotion.
“The work asks questions, its pokes at you. It makes you ask and feel,” Shechter says.
Hofesh Shechter Company will perform Grand Finale at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center on November 27-29. For more information, visit