Morphed and META make striking impacts DANCE
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