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Tero Saarinen Company

October 5, 2017


Reviewed October 5, 2017                               

NAC Babs Asper Theatre, Ottawa

tero saarinen morphed cropped

Tero Saarinen’s Morphed could be so much more than it is. Billed as a work that explores the theme of male identity, the 60-minute piece moves from a drawn-out tight ritualistic marching about the stage in random square patterns to an eerie and chaotic arm-twisting finale.

Given the current twisted political climate, changing gender issues and challenges over racial identity, a dance work that puts seven phenomenal male dancers on the stage could have presented something way more meaningful.

Instead, the work doesn’t extend much beyond the stage, which is “trapped” on three sides by hundreds of lengths of floor-sweeping ropes, leaving many in the audience unmoved.

A solo horn, a Concert Étude by Esa-Pekka Salonen and Esa Tapani, heralds the tedious opening, which has the seven dancers marching solidly in bare feet on a white floor dressed entirely in black, including hoods. There is little clue to their identity. The solitary horn and the seemingly meaningless walking gives the work a hollow and aimless refrain.

Saarinen, who premiered the work in Helsinki, Finland three years ago, eventually breaks the band of men into more individual expression, but predominantly it is a moving group of seven. When they interact with each other, there is always a sense of embattled wills or competition. Often, one of the men will be hooded, keeping any intimacy at bay.

As the men interact with the set of hanging ropes – so much symbolism here – setting them wildly asway, their movements become increasingly out of control.

Always, the choreography follows the depressingly moody music of Finnish composer Salonen. A final violin concerto, by Salonen and American-Canadian violinist Leila Josefowicz, changes the mood for the frantic finale. Here, lighting and set designer Mikki Kunttu plays with the light, first bathing it in a harsh, cold blue as a vulnerability among the men emerges, then warming the stage into a golden hue, which bounces the light off the glistening skin of the men, at least half of whom are now bare-chested.

The curtain falls mid-scene.


From → Contemporary

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