Adelaide Festival Review: Grand Finale is a joyous celebration of life and death

Israeli-born, London-based choreographer, Hofesh Shechter has had an impressive CV since 2007, when he released his critically acclaimed work “In your rooms”. Grand Finale is the first of his full-length works to be presented in Australia as part of the Adelaide Festival. The Hofesh Schechter Company is a diverse group of international dancers from eight different countries, whose disciplined performance is outstanding.

Grand Finale is a comment on chaos and order, human nature and a sense of beauty in the face of death and decay. The curtain opens on a scene of twirling bodies on a stark, foreboding stage. The lights flash on and off to create a feeling of montage and still life. We catch a glimpse of an orchestra. There are hulking blocks dominating the space. The dancers are beautifully choreographed and move as one. The lighting gives a rich tone to the simply clad artistes. Yet at a moments notice the light becomes cold and harsh.

The orchestra is glimpsed again. There is heat and energy on stage. There is chaos and order, despair and hope. The music is tribal and primitive, then evolves into an Irish jig, which soon morphs again into a hip-hop freestyle beat.

This is a dystopian world, with a lifeless body dragged across the stage. There is stillness amongst the monoliths. Are these giant blocks symbols of oppression or monuments to the dead? Forms appear in the gloom. Is this a haka? The dance is synchronized, ritualistic, tribal. The music is drum heavy with a hypnotic beat.

The limited red pallet of the lighting gives an oppressive feel. The simple linen costumes have a timeless feel.  The ensemble is trapped between the encroaching walls and the energy reaches a crescendo. When you feel that there can be no more energy available the dancing becomes even more extreme.

The music stops. The dancers have vacant stares, dark eyes, open mouths, like a slow motion scream. They are inhuman. The orchestra plays simple sounds from a time long ago, on the Titanic perhaps? There is stillness. The curtain drops for the interval.

Grand Finale is a highly stylized celebration of life and death. There are macabre scenes dancing with dead bodies, which even so have a beautiful poetry about them. There are memories of the past and a celebration of the human spirit. Chaos and order, love and death, happiness and anger are all part of the human experience and are all presented in a hypnotic and elegant way.

The work as a whole is equally sophisticated, the dancer’s competence, the bleakness of the stage, the emotive lighting, the rhythmic score, the orchestra; it all comes together to create an overwhelming sense of beauty and scale.

Grand Finale was a fitting finale to a successful Festival and if this reviewer had to choose a way to leave this earth, this would be the ultimate way to go.


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