sun 21/07/2024

Hofesh Shechter: My Brighton Festival So Far | reviews, news & interviews

Hofesh Shechter: My Brighton Festival So Far

Hofesh Shechter: My Brighton Festival So Far

The choreographer and Brighton Festival Guest Director shares his thoughts

Hofesh Schechter, not one for speeches

On a lovely sunny Saturday morning the Children’s Parade was a really amazing start to things. The Brighton Festival team, the mayor and I started the parade, leading from the front for a few streets, then we went and watched from the side, wonderful, it made the hairs on my neck stand up. That evening was the first performance of my show Sun which opened the Festival and we had a big party afterwards. Not only that but it was my 39th birthday so it was a triple celebration.

I didn’t feel rough on Sunday, though. I had a good amount of champagne but I’m still young - not 40 yet.

On Sunday we had an open rehearsal-performance type thing. When I create any of my works there’s a lot of extra material that ends up not being included. We decided that, being guest director and because it’s a special occasion, we’d present parts that didn’t make it into Sun, and we discussed how and why – the creative process.

I’m trying to see as much of the Festival as I can

I’ll be here for three weeks, the whole duration of the Festival. I eat breakfast at Carluccio’s every day, a great muesli with yoghurt and a croissant with Earl Grey tea. The Festival got me a flat very close to centre, walking distance from the Dome. My dance company doesn’t need me to hold its hand. It has a brilliant team of dancers, technical people, office people. They will be going a little bit into rehearsals for our next performances. They’re off on a tour with In Good Company, which is the dancers’ own choreography. Every 18 months or so we let our dancers do their own choreography, we produce it for them and tour it in venues across the UK.

Meanwhile I’m trying to see as much of the Festival as I can. It’s an amazing privilege and opportunity to invite artists whose work interests me. This week we had Dmitry Krymov’s Opus No.7. which the Festival’s Executive Director Andrew Comben originally brought to the table. He said, “I think you’re going to love this,” and showed me a video and, yes, I did immediately fall in love - extraordinary. I watched them setting up and what goes into that production is absolutely mind-blowing.

People can do what they want these days in choreography – theatre, art, music, the borders are becoming hazy and I really enjoy that. Krymov, Wim Vandekeybus, Yinka Shonibare’s The British Library, dare I say Sun as well - a lot of work at the Festival has a strong, satisfying combination of beauty and comment, things that poke and challenge the audience, that use whatever they need to use to make their point. Even my speech at the Festival launch was not a speech at all. I stood up as if to make it then my dancers rushed into the audience and performed. I thought, “I have nothing to say. I don’t like speeches. If I say something I make a dance piece.” That’s how my speech appeared to have been kidnapped by dance.

It was such a long time ago I agreed to do this, about two-and-a-half years. Andrew Comben said, “Listen, how do you feel about being Guest Director?” I remember not even blinking, just saying, “Yeah sure, that sounds a really fun idea.” It’s something so different from the crazy routine of my life. We’ve been working together for years. I can’t see that we’ll ever stop. The Brighton Dome and Festival are one of our biggest partners in the UK so this is part of an ongoing connection. I travel all over world but Brighton has a special place in my heart. The place you stay when you make work becomes very meaningful, what you see in the morning as you walk to the studio, the atmosphere of a city. I made Political Mother here for three months in the Corn Exchange, so many of my works I came here to do, so it holds very powerful memories.

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