Tero Saarinen Company

March 28, 2006

Tero Saarinen Company in
Westward Ho!
Photo by Sakari Viika, courtesy Tero Saarinen Company

Tero Saarinen Company
Joyce Theater, NYC

March 28–April 2, 2006

Reviewed by Susan Yung


Tero Saarinen’s choreography appeals to audiences with its earthbound accessibility, but at the same time, it feels fresh and inventive. The phrases are fluid and muscular, with meticulously detailed work for the extremities.

The Finnish company was last seen in New York eight years ago, when it performed Westward Ho! (1996), reprised on this visit. Three men (Henrikki Heikkilä, Carl Knif, and Heikki Vienola) repeated a hypnotic side-to-side phrase, flinging an arm out and tucking it into the small of the back, with one of them occasionally breaking off, as if regaining consciousness, to do a measured lunge or taffy-pliant twist. Mikki Kunttu’s astringent lighting of iceberg blues, lavenders, and darkening skies created a world both hermetic and limitless. Composer Gavin Bryars looping “Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet” set the tone for a grave spiritual sojourn.

Sini Länsivuori joined Heikkilä for Wavelengths (2000), in which they moved lushly and deliberately. Länsivuori suspended developpés and expansive layouts with such ease that she might have been underwater. Saarinen’s butoh studies showed in the way the dancers isolated their torsos and undulated their arms like tentacles. Kunttu’s lighting palette of bronzes and coppers set off Erika Turunen’s elegant, modern costumes, including an invisible-backed sweater and palazzo pants.

(2002), an impassioned tour de force solo to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, featured Saarinen as a creature somewhere between tame and feral. He sculpted myriad shapes with his arms and hands: pulling a fourth position taut, flinging his arms into a V with chest thrust forward, or hands gnarling in stop-motion. What appeared to be a descending cloud turned out to be an ingenious accordion-paneled skirt (by Turunen). It slid over Saarinen’s head, and with his body, served as a screen for a video loop of replicating, spiraling imagery (by Marita Liulia), like some sort of high-tech virus. It might be read as a loss of innocence—technology over nature, societal norms subverting individualism, evil over good. Saarinen mustered one last struggle, leaping wildly; lit by strobes, only fleeting moments of the movement were visible. Unfortunately, the dance felt stretched to fill the music, making an otherwise memorable performance last too long. See www.terosaarinen.com.