Reflections on a Hofesh Shechter masterclass
Earlier this year, a number of students had the privilege of watching a performance of 'Grand Finale' by Hofesh Shechter Company and took part in a masterclass with the company in the Drama Theatre at the Sydney Opera House, all organised by the NSW Department of Education Arts Unit. Here are two reflections on the experience from students from the Northern Beaches Secondary College Mackellar Girls Campus.
Name: Hanako Greuter
Level of training: Advanced
The masterclass was taught by the Associate Artistic Director of the Hofesh Shechter Company, Bruno Guillore, accompanied by dancer Emma Farnell-Watson. It began with conditioning. Guillore explained that strength training was vital for the company dancers as they do not train in traditional ballet or contemporary classes. Instead, they use specific exercises such as push ups, partner pull ups, squats and arm pulses to strengthen major muscles and to mobilise key joints. This conditioning allows the dancers to have control and move seamlessly on the stage, even when performing erratic movements.
We were then asked to move our body in isolation. The exercise started on the floor and advanced to moving across the space. We were challenged to picture that each part of our body was a snake and that we had to move each body part simultaneously. This allowed us to develop a new understanding of the movement patterns and pathways that can be explored.
Finally, we learnt a small excerpt from Grand Finale. This required us to put together everything we had learnt from the class as we were required to switch seamlessly from feeling loose to rigid. One of the first moves we learnt was the “grove”. This involves stepping on the spot to the beat while shaking your body and throwing your arms and neck backwards. I remember seeing this done by the dancers and thinking that it must have caused them a lot of discomfort. However, it became evident that by stabilizing the shoulder joint in the warmup, we were able to execute the movement safely and without compromising on the quality of the movement. After dancing the small section I was in awe of the dancers as I realised just how much endurance would have been needed to complete the entire work.
I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to watch the Hofesh Shechter Company and take a master class at the Opera House as I was exposed to a new way of moving. It forced me to rethink the importance of our lower limbs when dancing and I will be able to take this knowledge and implement it into my own composition. I would highly recommend that other students take opportunities like this one as they provide such a unique and valuable insight into professional contemporary companies. To other students who are given an opportunity like this, I would urge them to be open to new ways of moving and to not compare themselves to anyone else in the room.
Level of training: Advanced
After watching the performance of Grand Finale, I was uncertain of what to expect from the masterclass but I thought it would be challenging in a way that would be unlike what I usually do and would push me to think outside of the box.
Hofesh Shechter Company Associate Assistant Director Bruno Guillore began the masterclass by working through the strength and engagement of the core muscles, upper body and lower legs for the crucial control of movement into and out of the ground, for stamina and to improve agility. In addition, we were further challenged to move our bodies in both loose motions with minimal intention placed upon classical alignment and also directed purely by the rhythm of the music.
This class was different from my previous contemporary class experiences as it was more driven by improvisation and totality as opposed to basic technical aspects. This meant the constant incorporation of the whole body, feeding from the extremities inwards. Bruno asked us to imagine the head, neck and other extremities as snakes, which allowed these areas to become loose and free to discover movement in space. I was inspired and encouraged by the instructor to create interesting moving shapes with my body that expanded and contracted like an accordion to the music. We also learnt a section of choreography from the Grand Finale performance that relied heavily upon looseness and totality and demanded endurance to maintain the percussive movements.
It was a surreal experience being able to dance on the Sydney Opera House stage for the first time. I would highly recommend other students engage in opportunities similar to this as I found it challenging but rewarding and inspiring to see into the professional world of contemporary dance. I thoroughly enjoyed taking part in this masterclass and I will implement the elastic quality of movement into my general improvisation and ensure the use of all my body and strength in my practice.
This was such a unique experience that allowed me to be stretched and explore my body to discover the new ways it can move. My advice I would give to other students offered a similar opportunity would be to be open minded, not to be afraid to explore your body in new ways and be ready to absorb all the expert knowledge you can.