Hofesh Shechter talks about his return to BAM with Sun

Israeli choreographer Hofesh Shechter returns to BAM with his latest dance Sun

Time Out New York: Does the sun represent something ominous to you?
Hofesh Shechter:
The sun is what gives us life. At the same time, it’s dangerous. It’s what will bring the end of the world. The sun has so many connotations. I think the strongest in connection to the piece is the ambivalence of the sun that gives life and can take life, that is kind and dangerous at the same time.

Time Out New York: Are you working in different dance styles?
Hofesh Shechter:
It’s hard for me to define a style that I work in. With each piece that I make, I’m trying to connect to a certain atmosphere; each point of the piece might have a different atmosphere and I’m trying to create out of this atmosphere, to be inspired by the character, the idea, the feel of the thing. That brings surprises; on one hand, I have a vision, and on the other, I’m trying to go with it to see what comes up. In a way, the movement is very detailed; it’s also theatrical. But I think it’s more detailed than how I’ve worked before.

Time Out New York: But are you working with different forms like belly dance and the Lindy Hop? That’s something I read.
Hofesh Shechter:
I don’t research things like that deeply or go on the Internet to look for stuff. When I’m in the studio, I work instinctively and sometimes also with a sense of humor with the dancers, so suddenly if one of the parts starts to become a bit Bollywood, we go with it. We do it based on our instincts and perhaps what we’ve experienced, but it’s not in my character to go, Oh, but it has to be like the real thing. It doesn’t. It’s a metamorphosis of that thing and the way I experience it.

Time Out New York: How do you work with your dancers?
Hofesh Shechter:
My dancers are dear to me. We start by doing about a month of research. I bring some ideas, some music, some atmosphere—normally, I start to create a lot of movement material, and then I ask them to improvise in the energy of the movement material. Sometimes I will also ask them to create movement, and we use the ideas and energy as a stem for something that then develops through my conversation with them, through making material and seeing how it sits with them. Through playing with it in the studio, it grows and becomes more focused and rich. And when we get to do the piece, it’s the same: I bring ideas and make movement material, and then sometimes I’ll ask them to make movement material. It’s all about bouncing ideas and letting them grow, letting dancers find a connection to the energy and then something in the way they do it will inspire me further. My dancers are extremely creative and sensitive, and I am very aware that they are the matter that makes the work. They have to connect to the movement material. They have to feel it. They have to feel something that moves them in it. So I’m looking for what rattles them.

Time Out New York: How many are in Sun?
Hofesh Shechter:
We have 14 dancers plus two apprentices so there are moments with 16 people onstage. This is the largest cast I’ve had in a new creation. I had, with Political Mother, a choreographer’s cut version where we added dancers, but it was different because the creation itself was only 12. So it was the first time I had 16 people in the studio, and it was great; it’s pretty challenging of course and very time-demanding, and it’s more to deal with on very simple terms, but it is very exciting what you can do with so many bodies, and the energy and the power and the complexity that you can get to in the choreography.

Time Out New York: How closely do you work with Lee Curran, your lighting designer?
Hofesh Shechter:
Very. We have worked together now for seven years. We speak a lot about the energy of the work, the ideas; Lee comes to see rehearsals. We are trying to build a world together that is very much connected to the world of the choreography and the music, so there is a strong package that is the performance. We discuss so many things: What atmosphere we are trying to create, what is the journey of the piece; we both come up with ideas. I think Lee is very good at being loyal to the atmosphere of the work and trying to connect with what I’m saying. He does it brilliantly and brings so many things that really surprise me; he attends rehearsals—not all of them, because we rehearse for four months, but he drops in and sees little parts when we create them. He is part of the process from the very beginning, and same with Christina Cunningham, the costume designer, and Merle Hensel, the set designer.

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