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Tero Saarinen Company  - 'Borrowed Light'

The Light of Community

by Rosella Simonari

April 9, 2005 -- Teatro Rossini, Civitanova Marche, Italy

"The worshipers all turned their backs to the audience … and commenced a backward and forward march" wrote Benson Lossing in 1857. He was an artist who had the chance to eyewitness a typical Shakers' dance and report it in Harper's magazine.

The Shakers were a religious sect born in England in the early 18th century. They fully established themselves as a group once they moved to the United States where their unusual ritual dance developed. Tero Saarinen studied the Shakers for years, and with "Borrowed Light", he has created a profoundly spiritual piece where the 'back-manner' dancing recurs together with dance phrases characterised by a hard-stepping on the floor.

Tero Saarinen's dance is one where everyday movements become poetic bodily expressions. In one of his earlier pieces, "Could you take some of my weight…?", the sense of gravity is expressed as a feathery principle. The stepping is carefully and delicately done while in "Borrowed Light" it becomes a heavy burden. This is in line with Saarinen's interpretation of the Shakers as a movement where the sense of community and equality is quite strong. In this sense, the heavy stepping of the dancers' backwards and forwards walking, when done in unison, highlights the bond between the members of the community.

The piece begins in darkness and darkness constitutes a main feature of the whole work as the mainly black and beautifully forged costumes by Erika Turunen also underline. The use of lighting is fundamental and it is architecturally employed by Mikki Kunttu. For example, a lateral floodlight placed in the front part of the stage recurrently focuses on some solo pieces respectively by Carl Knif and Maria Nurmela. Some floodlights are placed in the front part of the stage and they create a surreal game of shadows in the backgroud when the dancers move together, all connected via their arms. The use of lighting is also important as a metaphor for God, the highest principle in the Christian faith. Furthermore, the expression 'borrowed light' was used by the Shakers with reference to thier houses where a system of internal windows allowed them literally to maximise the natural light in their homes.

Another structural apsect of this piece is the music, original Shakers' songs performed live by six members of the Boston Camerata. The singers are not separated from the choreography.  The singers stay on the large black steps surrounding the stage where the dancers sometimes go, and they also move together with the whole company as in one of the final pieces where they become the centre of a ritualistic circle around which the dancers move. The Civitanova Danza audience was caught by the distinctive aura of this complex piece. Moreover, if we consider that Saarinen had presented its prototype last summer in the small Annibal Caro Theatre in the up part of the town. this was an occasion in the company's two week residence in the town of Enrico Ceccheti. There and then the bones of the choreography were already visible such as the duets between the different members of the community, the group work and the horizontal use of space.

"Borrowed Light" is a carefully constructed piece where all the elements of the performance perfectly fuse together to express the energy and vitality of a community. Echoes are there to refer to the Shakers community, however no trace of their fanatacism remains, only their love and respect for each other. As the result of a large joint project between the Civitanova Danza Festival in Italy, the Kuopio Dance Festival in Finland and the Octobre en Normandie Festival in France, with the support of the European Community, the Finnish Ministry of Education, the Finnish National Council for Dance and the Florence Gould Foundation, "Borrowed Light" is a rare pearl of refined quality.


Edited by Staff.

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