FIVE YEARS after first wowing arts festival audiences with Political Mother, the Hofesh Schechter Company, one of the world’s leading dance troupes, makes a welcome return visit to the city with another thrilling production - DeGeneration.
DeGeneration comprises three separate dance pieces - Cult, Fragments, and Disappearing Act. Cult takes a dark look at the powers that steer us in today’s society. Its lithe routine of six dancers is enhanced by a rich soundtrack, composed by Shechter himself, in a forceful yet touching performance. Fragments, which was Shechter’s first choreographic work, uses delicate and intense movement to represent the dynamic between a couple. Set to a cinematic soundtrack again by Shechter, this is a powerful yet humorous portrayal of a relationship which features additional music by Bach and Monty Python’s Eric Idle. Completing the evening is Disappearing Act, adapted from an earlier Schechter piece, Under A Rock, and newly re-worked for this production.
Ahead of the company’s latest trip to Galway, associate artistic director and founder member Bruno Guillero talked to me about DeGeneration and what it is like working with Hofesh Schechter.
From Egypt to Senegal to Paris
Guillero was born in Cairo but as a child moved to west Africa where, at the age of nine, he made his first foray into dance. “My parents were teachers and they were working abroad for the French government so I spent part of my childhood in the Ivory Coast and Senegal, I was very happy there,” he tells me. “I did a dance class by luck because one of my friends in school was doing it. I was a violent kid at the time and my parents wanted me to do some activity where I could get rid of my energy without being violent. They suggested I do ballet, the teacher thought I was gifted so she encouraged my parents to pursue it. I myself didn’t really enjoy it at that stage, but my parents loved any kind of arts discipline and they pushed me into it.”
After his father’s death, Guillero’s mother took the family to Paris. There, Bruno enrolled in the Conservatoire but he felt ill-suited to its ethos. “The training at the Conservatoire was very rigid, they break your personality. In the ballet section everyone has to be the same, dance the same, look the same, they don’t want to develop your individuality. It’s based on what you look like and I didn’t look like a ballet dancer - it’s about bone structure and articulation and you need to be tall. You are typecast, I don’t look like the prince in Cinderella so normally people like me do character parts like the joker.”
When he was 18, Guillero decided to specialise in modern dance and signed up for Geneva’s Junior Ballet and discovered this was his natural dance metier. After graduating he worked for companies in Berlin and Lisbon before luck again intervened and he met Hofesh Schecther in 2006.
“I first met Hofesh during the creation of Uprising,” he recalls. “We met by luck. My girlfriend came to study in the UK and she asked me did I want to come with her. I said ‘yeah, great!’ because I had never been to London. When I arrived, a friend of mine who I used to work with told me about Hofesh. I auditioned for him and he liked me and we started working together.”
Bruno has worked with the Schechter Company since, both as a dancer and associate director. He regards Hofesh one of his best friends. “We are from the same generation and that was really interesting for me because I was used to working with people who were much younger,” he explains. “We had the same references and interests and that was a plus. I also really liked that first piece we did together, Uprising. When we worked together on new creations they were always very different from each other so I didn’t feel I had to do the same thing over and over again. Every time Hofesh is trying to push himself to do something new and therefore push me to do something different as well.”
And so to DeGeneration. The production features the dancers of Schechter Junior, a new ensemble set up to showcase the cream of the 1,000 or so young dancers who audition every year for the company.
“This is the first time we have done this,” Bruno reveals. “In the past we the main company would just take on two apprentices each year. We wanted to have more young people working with us and to help them bridge the gap between school and becoming professional. We decided to have a junior company with its own identity and its own touring where they can get better skills in performing, getting exposure, working on some projects with the main company, being tutored and becoming professional dancers. I am very confident that that they will all find work after this year, either with us or other companies.”
Guillero describes the content of DeGeneration; “Fragments was the first piece Hofesh did when he started working in UK, then he did Cult. The music in Cult has a lot of groove and with Hofesh also being a drummer –he studied drum in the academy in Jerusalem and he used to be in a band - so the dancing and the music are always very rhythmical. Cult is definitely influenced by his knowledge of drums. Disappearing Act was a piece he originally did for a company in Portugal. When he was putting together the programme for the junior company he felt this would suit, because it is for a large group of dancers so he could use all the company. He has reworked it specially for their needs and it will give him a chance to spend a little more time to make it better music-wise and choreography wise.
“The show is very fresh, the energy and excitement these young dancers bring is great. Even though they are relatively young when you go to see the show you do not see a young group of dancers, dancing-wise you will see professionals. What we are teaching them are all the things around being a professional dancer; schedules, waking up early for flights, finding the theatre easily, making their home in whichever city they are, finding shops and supermarkets to get food and other necessities. We are very proud of them as dancers, their performances onstage are absolutely up to standard with professional companies.”
For tickets see www.giaf.ie