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Richard Penberthy
Performance Reviews
Modern/Contemporary
The Joyce Theater
USA
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Tero Saarinen Company - Two Rights and a Rite

by Richard Penberthy
March 31, 2006
The Joyce Theater
175 Eighth Avenue (at the corner of 19th Street)
New York, NY 10011
212-242-0800

Tero Saarinen Company - Two Rights and a Rite

March 28 - April 6

The Joyce Theater
175 8th Avenue (at 19th)
New York City
(212) 242-0800
www.joyce.org

Richard Penberthy
March 31, 2006


Tero Saarinen, Artistic Director

Booking/North America:
DLB Spectacles Performing Arts
Mr. Didier LeBesque, e-mail: didier.le-besque@wanadoo.fr

The Program
"Westward Ho!"
"Wavelengths"
"Hunt"

All choreography by Tero Saarinen

The program begins with "Westward Ho!", danced by three men, Henrikki Heikkilä, Carl Knif, and Heikki Vienola. Much of this long piece is danced in silence, the three men in a lightweight white Henleys and loose sweatpants. A square of heavy black fabric is sewn to the front of the shirt, and it looks as if they are wearing canvas shoulder bags. This black and white contrast is striking and, against the colorful projected images, it is also intriguing. Color plays an important role in the presentation, for throughout the piece, time's passing is signaled by a sky projected onto the back of the stage. Changeable, it changes from the hard blue of a morning sky to a gentle blue with the addition of side lighting, which softens it - reminiscent of an impressionist painting that might be titled sur la plage. It changes to night time, to soft pink, cumulus sunsets and to the vermillioned mare's tails of late afternoon. And it changes back again, always the western sky, not to the sunrise but the sunset…Westward Ho!

Time is the god of this dance. The three men, evenly spaced across the stage, move with their legs spread, always leading with one foot, the trailing foot catching up, stepping off again with the lead foot. The upper body and arms remain in fluid and slow motion. In the silence, they move toward the audience, then with a slow cyma-curving, three dimensional flourish move away, then reverse, then reverse again…repeating and repeating for a very long time. It becomes irresistible - the urge to count how many steps in one direction before they turn: 9, and 7 and 7 again, and 5, and then you lose track.

The music, Gavin Bryars' emphysemic "Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet," softly rattles itself into the audience's consciousness as the dance changes. In mid-performance the music is overwhelmed by an unidentifiable sound - rather like a whale's sonar clicks combined with an old fashioned adding machine - and Moondog's "The Message". The dance ends with "Jesus' Blood…" being intoned again.

Eventually, as two men dance separately, they push the third dancer (Henrikki Heikkilä) to the floor, where he, prone, crawls ineffectually away from the audience. They dance on either side of him, and when he appears to make any headway, they drag him by his arms back to center stage. Eventually this theme is repeated, somewhat differently, later in the dance when Carl Knif becomes the subjugated figure. There are passages of energetic dance, very brief passages of solo, duo, and once or twice ensemble dancing. The most memorable images are of two men dancing side by side, in sync, each with a hand pushing the other's head forward and down, controlling as well as cooperating. The dance ends with all three headed West, Heikki Vienola crawling, and the other two at either side dancing upright.

The dance is long, slow, enigmatic, and ultimately, somehow very satisfying. The dancers are servants of the choreography, with never a suggestion that they would individually care to shine. The costuming, by Tero Saarinen himself, fosters that - for it is all-concealing. There is some new vocabulary here too - movements that are new or newly used, particularly during the long periods when the men are paired side by side. This is easily the dance with the most gravity and worthwhile innovation of the evening.

The second dance, "Wavelengths," danced by Henrikki Heikkilä and Ms. Sini Länsivuori, begins with the dancers in front of stage lights, projecting multiples of their shadows against the stage back and curtains. Late in the dance, a light appears behind a scrim and shadows are projected onto the back of the set as well. And, at the end of the dance, the two dancers are obliterated, or nearly so, and the audience enwreathed by blasting "stage smoke" from above the stage. Stage smoke, particularly the oil-based kind, has become common, it has lost its impact because it is simply overused in dance performances. Aside from the fact that it can hurt the larynx, lungs, nose, it is a cheap shot - a way to make atmosphere that could be created with choreography and lighting.

This dance didn't need it. Mr. Saarinen's strong and sensitive choreography, the rapport between the dancers, and their evident enthusiasm for dancing these particular roles, were wonderful. This is a gender play: man and woman attracted to each other, to fighting each other as well as to loving each other. And, without descending into lewdness or even suggestiveness, it roars, it stinks of sexual power. When Ms. L. begins to leave the stage (in another new and wonderful bit of dance) she begins as if to leap, then, arms raised and poised to bound away, pauses, almost looking back to her partner, self-disappointed, and completely drawn back to him. These dancers act as well as they dance, and the dynamic that drives them to dance so wonderfully, to lift and to gesture so strongly in parallel and in cannon, brings them together at the end of the dance. That's when the whole thing is blasted away by vaporized mineral oil. Wonderful dance and dancers, sophomoric SFX.

The third dance, "Hunt," is Mr. Saarinen's solo. That only means that he is the lone dancer on stage - many other things appear to compete with him, and alas, he is overwhelmed by the competition. He chose as his music, Stravinski's "The Rite of Spring," which, depending on one's point of view, either carries a whole lot o' baggage or trails clouds of glory. He wears a costume that begins as a Princess Diana skirt that is then covered in something descends upon him from above like the Angel in "Angels in America." It appears to be a stack of large starched tablecloths that has tumbled from the linen closet and rearranged itself along in a farthingale shape. He remains bare-chested throughout. There is a semi-circle of lights behind him, which periodically go off in a cannonade of audience-blinding intensity. There is an occasional strobe effect from above the stage, and most unhappily, there is a multi-media projection that for much of this very, very long performance shines itself on Mr. Saarinen's face, torso and body, while he remains stock still. There are brief passages of dance, but this is much less than a dance.


Westward Ho
Photo courtesy of Sakari Viika



Westward Ho
Photo courtesy of Sakari Viika



Hunt - Tero Saarinen
Photo courtesy of Marita Liulia



Hunt - Tero Saarinen
Photo courtesy of Marita Liulia



Wavelengths
Photo courtesy of Luigi Angelucci



Wavelengths
Photo courtesy of Jonas Lundqvist

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