On Tuesday, November 10th, a shock goes through the NAC audience. Something new has finally hit the NAC stage. It is not often that an Ottawa audience is startled by a show, or left speechless, but thanks to the Hofesh Shechter Company, we were. I could almost here the collective “Hallelujah” from the more educated Ottawa spectators. barbarians ran for two nights, letting Ottawa in on a completely unique world of dance.
The Dance season at the NAC is often more exciting then its other programs, but never have I encountered something like this. From intrusive lights, to gold leotards, to a curious duet, this barbarian trilogy has you at the edge of your seat the entire 2 hours.
Your first encounter with the piece is a pair of ear plugs. The first indicator that this show will not be typical. The music, composed by Shechter, is indeed loud and pulsing. The sounds of classical music and techno pop blast throughout the night with an intensity that only the dancers can match. The first part of the dance trilogy, the barbarians in love, set 6 dancers in white learning the rules of love from an unseen mechanical female voice. In this act, Shechter’s voice joins the woman character’s, speaking of the cliches of love. The lights act as a sort of fourth character, roaming around the stage and into the audience with clear intent. tHE bAd, part two of the trilogy, is an explosive piece of more aggressive dance movements involving 5 dancers. The magic of this act is its lack of traditional meaning. Lastly, Two completely different angles of the same fucking thing, part three has two dancers communicating some sort of awkward story about love. To me, the trilogy works together. The first act is the irony of trying to teach love, and trying to put a structure to it. The second act is about how love is actually non sensical and spontaneous. Finally, act three is marital love, and the struggle to keep the flame lit.
The beauty of this work is that it is up for interpretation. Shechter is experimenting with these pieces and is purposely trying to confuse his audience. It is brilliant. The dances are extremely well rehearsed, and Shechter’s choreography is constantly unpredictable. There are two stand out moments on stage worth mentioning. The first, a moment of stark nudity that provides more meaning about the vulnerability of love than any movement could portray; and the second, an improvised section of text by dancer Phillip Hulford. It is rare that impulse is that pure and free on the NAC stage. Both moments are different, but both are necessary. Hofesh Shechter fills his stage with art. Whether through big movements, strong music, or complex lighting (Lawrie McLennan), he has all senses on overload.
I feel very lucky to have been at the NAC that night. If you are craving impactful art, then this is the show for you. Ottawa will be hard pressed to see something like this again, it was truly original.
Taylor Efford is in the final year of her undergrad at the University of Ottawa and part of THE 4333 (Theatre Criticism) taught by Dr. Yana Meerzon. She’s in a specialization in theatre with a focus on acting, and hopes to continue on to a master program next year. Taylor’s favourite kind of theatre so far is non- realistic, impulse based work and hopes to see more of it in Ottawa theatre. She is new to reviewing but is excited to be a part of it!”