Mor­phed and META make strik­ing im­pacts DANCE

MOR­PHED

The Georgia Straight - - Arts -

A Tero Saari­nen Com­pany pro­duc­tion. A Dance­house pre­sen­ta­tion.

At the Van­cou­ver Play­house on Friday, Oc­to­ber 27. No re­main­ing per­for­mances

2In its Van­cou­ver de­but, Fin

land’s Tero Saari­nen Com­pany dug into many shades of mas­culin­ity in Mor­phed. Across town, lo­cal emerg­ing chore­og­ra­pher Deanna Peters de­buted the fe­male-pow­ered META, find­ing sur­real and some­times strik­ingly in­ti­mate mo­ments.

The vis­ually stun­ning Mor­phed started with its seven hooded men strid­ing like au­toma­tons across the stage, marching along set paths. Later they broke into rough-and-tum­ble strug­gles, and even­tu­ally into wild, bare-chested chaos. But the most tran­scen­dent el­e­ment was the fragility the men found, in a mid­sum­mer-dawn blast of light, by the end of the work.

Chore­og­ra­pher Saari­nen cel­e­brated his dancers’ raw, brute-force mus­cu­lar­ity as much as their ca­pac­ity for del­i­cacy. (Note the trem­bling, ar­tic­u­lated fin­gers of one mov­ing solo.) But the work also read as an earnest call for men to re­think their roles in so­ci­ety, mov­ing be­yond stereo­types of aggression and emo­tional tough­ness.

The piece main­tained a hyp­notic, mys­te­ri­ous qual­ity and a rig­or­ous ab­stract feel. Three sides of the stage were sur­rounded by thick hang­ing ropes that started to sway like long grass. Even­tu­ally, the per­form­ers used them as props, twist­ing the ropes around their tor­sos and swing­ing from them.

Adding to the haunt­ing feel was famed Fin­nish com­poser-con­duc­tor Esa-pekka Salo­nen’s lush score, with its whirling horns, rip­pling marim­bas, and rac­ing an­gu­lar strings.

The di­verse dancers were top­notch, cap­tur­ing Saari­nen’s shift­ing bal­ance of bru­tal­ity and grace and his seam­less meld of in­flu­ences as far-flung as bal­let and bu­toh.

Mor­phed was a se­ri­ous work, and not al­ways an easy one to con­sume. But if you sub­mit­ted to its mes­mer­iz­ing world of os­cil­lat­ing ropes and lung­ing men, its re­wards were deep.

Over at the Dance Cen­tre, Peters ex­plored the idea of the body as fluid, per­form­ing her­self, along with Kim Sato and Jus­tine A. Cham­bers.

One of Peters’s sig­na­tures is sur­re­al­ism, and it was in full use in META’S props: set de­signer Na­talie Purschwitz’s mov­able curv­ing fringe-fab­ric miniprosce­nium; a bob­bing white round screen that sug­gested a se­cret un­seen per­former on-stage; and a mi­cro­phone with a mir­ror that ob­fus­cated the head of who­ever was us­ing it. DJ ICE-B added a cool live en­ergy to the show, spin­ning ev­ery­thing from African pro­ducer Bod­dhi Satva to This Mor­tal Coil.

These were all ef­fec­tive de­vices, but no sin­gle el­e­ment was more strik­ing than the com­plex sculp­tural play Peters made with her dancers’ in­ter­twin­ing limbs and hands, won­der­fully con­found­ing per­cep­tions of where one per­son stopped and an­other started. There was also a quiet mo­ment when the women felt them­selves, their hands push­ing repet­i­tively over their breasts and arms and butts, as a wo­man might do alone and lost in thought. It felt pri­vate and provoca­tively un­per­for­mance­like.

In all, the work could have flowed to­gether more flu­idly, like all those hands and fin­gers—but Peters has a real tal­ent for build­ing at­mos­phere and warp­ing our point of view.

> JANET SMITH

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