Hofesh Shechter: “East Wall is a celebration – it’s about creating a euphoric feeling of movement, of colour and of sound”

East London Dance and Hofesh Shechter Company - East Wall

Hofesh Shechter is one of the most important choreographers of our time. His unique and groundbreaking work is as intriguing as it is unforgettable.

Earlier this month Hofesh presented East Wall: Storm the Tower “A dance and music spectacular celebrating east London”, which took place at the iconic and stunning Tower of London.

Choreographed by Joseph Toonga, James Finnemore, Duwane Taylor and Becky Namgauds along with Hofesh, the spectacular show featured more than 20 musicians, singers and 150 performers.

We asked Hofesh about the ideas behind the Festival, the choreographers that he chose, the meaning of dancing in the Tower of London and the different way of approaching the audience:

What were you looking for in the choreographers for East Wall, and what made you choose the four choreographers?

I wanted to work with really talented people who come from many different backgrounds, so the project would reflect the diversity of London.

Becky, Joseph, Duwayne and James all impressed me with their great visions, their ability to make work for a really big stage and for lots of performers, and the way that they lead their dancers.

Each one works in a different style and different dance tradition, so the project as a whole will be like an explosion of all the many elements that make up the London dance scene.

The choreographers have autonomy to create their individual pieces, which will become the building blocks for East Wall. I need to stay close to them in order to understand how each of these building blocks all fit together and will be connected in the show.

East Wall at the Tower of London Image Victor Frankowski piece choreographed by Becky Namguads featuring East Wall Collective Dancers Daniel Phung and Mary Mannion and Cando2 Youth Dance Company, Elevate Dance Company and One Youth Dance
East Wall at the Tower of London Image Victor Frankowski piece choreographed by Becky Namguads featuring East Wall Collective Dancers Daniel Phung and Mary Mannion and Cando2 Youth Dance Company, Elevate Dance Company and One Youth Dance

As an outside performance the work is being framed differently than in the conventional black box. With this variant, are there any huge differences in the actual movement and choreography of the dances?

The show is on a very large stage and involves 150 performers, so we’re working in a way that will be readable from a distance! A

lso, alongside the Shechter II dancers (from my apprentice company) and some professional dancers working with the choreographers, we have a lot of young people and community performers, so I’ve kept the movement quite simple so everyone can keep up.

Hopefully it will be a good experience for them and maybe they’ll learn from my dancers – I hope my dancers will learn too from the community performers who have so much energy and excitement to bring.

What has been the most rewarding experience in the whole process of East Wall, which has been different from other projects that you have directed?

I love working as a director as well as a choreographer, and supporting the young choreographers to create their best work is really exciting for me.

I’m loving drawing together all the different strands of the piece to make an evening that will have pace and shape overall. I feel my role is a lot about finding the flow of the performance – that will also come through in the music and developing the richness of the soundtrack.

It’s already so rich as we’re working with a military band, a gospel choir and an eclectic bunch of folk/rock/classical musicians who form the spinal cord of the score.

So, in a way, East Wall will have my stamp, but having worked so closely with the choreographers we have in some way become contaminated by each other’s energy – that way the show we finally create is somehow, somewhere very connected.

East Wall at the Tower of London Image Victor Frankowski piece choreographed by Hofesh Shechter featuring Shechter II dancer Neal Maxwell
East Wall at the Tower of London Image Victor Frankowski piece choreographed by Hofesh Shechter featuring Shechter II dancer Neal Maxwell

What does it mean for you to create this project in the Tower of London? Was there something about that space that particularly called your attention?

The Tower of London is such an interesting stage for us, a place where history crashes into newness, and hopefully sparks will fly. I love the idea of all these local people and cultures streaming into this citadel. It’s a little revolution!

There are the obvious associations that people make with such an iconic building and as an artist you are allowed to play with that – the stage gives you a bit more freedom.

Different styles of music and dance represent different social backgrounds and those will be brought into focus by performing at the Tower. It feels like we will be liberating stories and breaking down the barriers to the past and historic events that happened there.

The really simple, naive and beautiful thing about dance is that it brings people together. It’s a really simple, really ancient tool. I want it to do its job in East Wall.

Do you think the audience of East Wall would be different than the conventional audience in dance theatres? If so, why? And is there something in particular that you want the audience to take from these experience? 

For me, East Wall is really a celebration – it’s about creating a euphoric feeling of movement, of colour and of sound. With the mighty clash of different styles of music, from groove to grime and ancient celtic sounds alongside the different types of choreography – all inspired by the incredible energy of East London –  I’m very excited to see how the audience can share in this feeling of celebration too.

Read our review of East Wall : Storm the Tower.

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