Review: Grand Finale (Hofesh Shechter)

Canadian Stage opens 18/19 season in Toronto with introspective, apocalyptic dance

Internationally celebrated choreographer Hofesh Shechter returns to Toronto with a smoke-filled stage and a chaotic world in freefall in Grand Finale at the Bluma Appel Theatre. Grand Finale does not mark his final work, but presents a dreary yet beautiful apocalyptic world.

In this world, dancers are not distressed in a typical end-of-the-world fashion; rather they blankly move through a chaotic realm. Their movements are loose-limbed as they shuffle and shudder around the stage with supple wrists and upturned chests. They hold their mouths open in emotionless, silent screams, or fall lifeless to the ground to be carried, manipulated and dragged around.

Onstage are a half-dozen movable black monoliths, designed by Tom Scutt. At times they constrict dancers like prison walls, or they shift to create three-sided rooms, giving a glimpse into varied personal spaces. These structures dominate the space with their towering height, yet effortlessly move around in this tumultuous territory.

This highly polished show seamlessly brings together a loud and percussive original score and choreography – both by Shechter. Grand Finale is performed by ten of his company members and six live musicians presented on stage. The lighting design by Tom Visser is stunning in the way it highlights the dancers, helping illustrate the chaotic space and eating away at audience’s nerves with longer than traditional blackouts of the entire space.

My favourite part of the performance was how dynamic intermission was – the first act ends with the curtain falling to leave one dancer lifeless at the front of the stage. Fellow dancers arrive to place a cardboard sign that reads “Intermission” around his neck. Through the intermission, performers re-enter to reposition him on the floor, with a new sign that reads “karma.” The second half begins with the dancer being sucked under the curtain, keeping us engaged in Shechter’s chaotic world, yet this time with more fervor. 

As an avid program reader, I was surprised at the lack of notes presented about the show. The company does provide a 54-page resource booklet – mostly for teachers and students to be able to study the work. However, even the booklet does not give much away about Shechter’s vision and what he wants the audiences to get out of the work. Everything is left to the viewers own thoughts and experiences as they join this all too recognizable other realm.

Details:

  • Grand Finale is playing at the Bluma Appel Theatre (27 Front Street East, Toronto ON).
  • The show runs till November 18th – Thursday and Saturday performances at 8:00 pm, Friday performance at 7:00 pm and Sunday matinee at 2:00 pm
  • Tickets range from $51 to $111.
  • Tickets are available online or through phone (416) 368-3110.Photo by Rahi Rezvani, provided by Canadian Stage.