A mighty heartbeat

2 October 2007, The Times, Debra Craine

This is the piece that grew and grew. Thanks to an imaginative collaboration involving three London theatres, Hofesh Shechter's dance started life at The Place (300 seats) in March, had live music added at the Queen Elizabeth Hall (900 seats) in May, and finally emerged bigger and better at Sadler's Wells (1,500 seats) last week. Within six months Shechter has travelled through London's most important contemporary dance venues, a journey that it has taken other choreographers years to achieve.  

The final production, which now features 11 dancers and eight musicians, validates all three theatres' faith in Shechter, an Israeli choreographer based in London.  

Churning with the precision of a well-oiled machine, In Your Rooms delivers a mighty ride of exciting choreography and equally exciting music.  

It begins with a red herring -the meaning of the universe, we are led to believe -but our actual destination is deep within our own souls (the rooms of the title, presumably), where cauldrons of private emotion are burbling away like secret volcanoes. Anguish and anger, love and loneliness, pain and protest, fear and frustration: there isn't a nerve left untouched in the space of 40 minutes. Yet the contrast between the bleakness of the work's emotional territory and the sheer thrill of its realisation is striking.  

Over and over again the choreography bursts into shapes of aggression or self-protection as the spectre of an unseen enemy seems to loom over the dancers' fraught universe. The energy is unstoppable, like a mob on the rampage, and the imagery -of recoiling, rebelling or reaching out -is filled with the sense of being overwhelmed.  

What is so remarkable is how fluid the phrasing manages to be, and how mesmerising its dynamic. Earlier quibbles about too much repetition have evaporated, and the piece no longer feels fragmentary. 

The music, also written by Shechter (who in another life was a rock drummer), has benefited enormously from the development process too. When I first heard it in March, recorded at The Place, I dismissed it as noise with a beat. Here, with three percussionists and five string players performing live, the score becomes a glorious world of fabulous, rousing rhythms and haunting, seductive melodies.  

The lighting, too, is full of atmosphere and its on-again, off-again plot makes the excellent dancers look as if they are performing in pools of light amid dense fog. The way the musicians are lit, and that they are seated high above the stage, has the effect of making them look like a painting mounted on the wall.

Like everything about In Your Rooms, its theatrical polish attests to the confidence of a choreographer who has been given an extraordinary chance and made the most of it.

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