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Interview with Brighton Festival 2014 Guest Director Hofesh Shechter

PUBLISHED: 16:25 06 May 2014 | UPDATED: 16:25 06 May 2014

Hofesh Shechter,  Guest Director of The Brighton Festival 2014 - picture by Victor Frankowski

Hofesh Shechter, Guest Director of The Brighton Festival 2014 - picture by Victor Frankowski

Victor Frankowski

Guest Director and choreographer Hofesh Shechter, who will kick off this year's Brighton Festival with a performance of his new work, Sun, explains his years-long affiliation with the city and its vibrant arts scene

Hofesh Shechter's Sun - picture by Gabriele ZuccaHofesh Shechter's Sun - picture by Gabriele Zucca

Brighton Festival’s 2014 Guest Director is choreographer, musician, composer and performer Hofesh Shechter, whose renowned, eponymous contemporary dance company is resident at Brighton Dome and Festival. His curation of the Festival is the culmination of a five-year partnership and their new work, Sun (co-commissioned by Brighton Festival), will open the three-week festivities on 3 May after a victorious world tour.

Hofesh, who was born in Jerusalem, is renowned for creating raw, physical, live dance pieces set to his own highly-charged, atmospheric musical scores. Sun is his latest full-length work and sees him working with an expanded company of 14 dancers, as well as collaborator Lee Curran, an Olivier Award-nominated lighting designer.

Recent Guest Directors have included artist Anish Kapoor (2009), musician Brian Eno (2010), Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi (2011), actress and human rights campaigner Vanessa Redgrave (2012) and poet, author and former Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen (2013). The Guest Director’s role is to work with Chief Executive Andrew Comben and the Festival team to create a diverse, eclectic and thought-provoking programme. “It’s really exciting,” said Hofesh. “I’m used to provoking people’s emotions and thoughts through my own creations, yet suddenly I can choose other artist’s work to provoke emotions beyond what I can do myself. It’s like creating an art piece over a length of time. People that come to more than one show will start to get a feel of a certain thread between them...it’s much easier than making your own work.” He says that the life of a choreographer can sometimes be solitary, so the opportunity to search for and experience new work was “really fun, actually.”

As a long-time Festival collaborator, it has been an interesting experience for Hofesh to approach the Festival from another perspective. Performing at the Festival for many years meant that he rarely got to see other performances because he was so busy with his own show. “I have had this dream that when I retire - which hopefully won’t be too far because you know, a man needs to rest – I would see everything at the Brighton Festival. So when Andrew asked me to direct I thought: ‘Oh my God, I can do it now! I don’t need to retire’, I’m going to spend the whole month in Brighton, and see as much as I can see - what a pleasure. I thought I would have to be 65 for that.”

Hofesh Shechter's Sun - picture by Gabriele ZuccaHofesh Shechter's Sun - picture by Gabriele Zucca

Being a resident company for the past five years means that Hofesh has a special relationship with Brighton: “Brighton Dome and Brighton Festival have been a significant part of the development of my company in the last five years. It was during this time that the company really shot into the consciousness of audiences, both in the UK and internationally. I feel a strong connection with the city because when Andrew Comben took over the Brighton Festival, he took us with him. Every piece I made was commissioned by the Brighton Dome and performed there, so it’s a stronger connection than I can explain. People from the city feel like they have an ownership of the company and I love this feeling. I love the feeling that we have developed audiences together and I love that we have worked with so many young people on so many different projects. We are engaged with the city and feel a part of it, as if the city has taken us under its wings.”

Hofesh has a real sense of what the Festival means to the city. It has been the home to his art and every May it is home to a temporary population of world-class artists. “Brighton has such a buzz to it. The festival doubles or triples that buzz, and you really feel that people are engaged with the city. It brings people together. Art is something that is very inspiring and life-affirming and I think creating a Festival attracts more people to be part of it.”

A special relationship - By Andrew Comben. Chief Executive, Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival

One of the exciting things about Hofesh is his eclecticism; he is a critically acclaimed choreographer, performer, musician and composer whose work aesthetic speaks of a genuine passion for film and visual arts. I first came across his work with Uprising and In Your Rooms a year or two before Hofesh Shechter Company became a resident company at the Festival. This residency marked the start of an exciting relationship for both of us - one that has developed and deepened over the last five years, as the company performs regularly at both Brighton Festival and within the annual Brighton Dome programme.

Consequently, 2014 marks a very different way of working with our Guest Director; never before has the understanding of an artist’s work been so embedded within the whole organisation’s way of working and I’m really looking forward to May.

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