The ninth annual Bard SummerScape festival opens on Thursday, July 7, at 8 pm with the first of four performances by Tero Saarinen Company, comprising a triple bill of the Finnish choreographer’s finest dances – Westward Ho! (1996), Wavelengths (2000), and HUNT (2002); as the Globe and Mail (Toronto) explains, “The evening is more than three wonderfully provocative dance pieces. … The build, from one dance to the next in terms of mood and impact, is architectural perfection.” The performances will take place in the Frank Gehry-designed Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts on Bard College’s stunning Hudson River campus. Three additional performances are on July 8 and 9, also at 8 pm, and on Sunday, July 10 at 3 pm. This season’s SummerScape Gala Benefit precedes the July 9 performance.
A significant dance performance has opened SummerScape each year since 2005; last season’s offering from the Trisha Brown Dance Company prompted the Star-Ledger to comment: “If any dance event is worth a quick run out of town, it’s this one.” As in previous seasons, SummerScape 2011 is keyed to the theme of the Bard Music Festival, which this year celebrates “Jean Sibelius and His World.” Like the great symphonist, Tero Saarinen Company is one of Finland’s leading cultural exports. The “outstanding contemporary dance troupe” (Globe and Mail) has appeared in nearly 40 countries, and Saarinen’s daring and innovative choreography, whose influences range from Japanese butoh and martial arts to classical ballet and Western contemporary dance, has been incorporated into the repertoire of such prominent dance groups as Nederlands Dans Theater (NDT1), the Batsheva Dance Company, Lyon Opéra Ballet, and the Finnish National Ballet.
Dancer/choreographer Tero Saarinen’s contribution to the art form has been recognized with the Pro Finlandia medal (2005), the most prestigious recognition given to artists in Finland; the International Movimentos Dance Prize for Best Male Performer in Germany (2004); and the title of “Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres” (2004) by the French Ministry of Culture. Dance magazine stresses the “distinctive, original, and kinetic signature” of his work, while a New York Times review of his most recent New York appearance, at the 2010 Fall for Dance festival, describes Saarinen as “an extraordinarily compelling stage presence.”
Tero Saarinen Company launches SummerScape 2011 with Triple Bill, three works that plumb themes of friendship, love, and death. All three dances feature the innovative lighting design of Saarinen’s compatriot Mikki Kunttu, with whom the choreographer has collaborated for more than ten years. “We Finns live with the extremities of light and dark,” Saarinen says, “from the midnight sun in the summer to the darkness outdoors and artificial light indoors that is everyday life in the winter.” Dance magazine calls Kunttu’s lighting design “quintessentially Finnish”; for the New York Times, it is simply “stunning.” When Tero Saarinen Company performed Triple Bill at New York’s Joyce Theater in 2006, the New York Times’s John Rockwell marveled: “The whole thing was quite extraordinary… . It made one…fervently hope [Saarinen] makes it back to New York sooner than another eight years.”
Westward Ho! (1996), the first of Saarinen’s creations for his company, functions today as the group’s calling card. Inspired by a lyric from American performance artist Laurie Anderson (“There is no pure land now. / No safe place. / And we stand here on the pier, / Watching you drown.”), Westward Ho! is a quietly humorous, lightly melancholy portrayal of friendships marred by selfishness and betrayal. Set to music by England’s Gavin Bryars (b.1943) and American eccentric Moondog (1916-99), it presents three male dancers engaged in a stoic struggle. As the Village Voice explains, “every time the men interject a sharp movement, or one breaks away, or two touch, it’s a major event. The piece has an almost faultless dance logic.” The New York Times found the piece “striking in its sense of color and composition…[and] clarity of line,” and praised its “force of controlled energy, channeled into repeated geometric shapes and occasionally erupting into whiplash twists and turns.” As for Les Saisons de la Danse, the French magazine considers Westward Ho! “a jewel from Finland, a real poem danced in a light of aurora borealis.”
At the center of Triple Bill, the impassioned duet Wavelengths (2000) depicts two strong personalities in an established partnership, trying to avoid monotony within their long-term relationship. This theme serves also as a metaphor for Saarinen’s creative process; in its organic movements, the piece seeks to reinvent the traditional pas de deux to express the dynamics of contemporary, equal partnerships. Originally conceived as a setting of Boléro, Wavelengths features new music inspired by Ravel’s orchestral classic by Finnish composer Riku Niemi (b.1964). As Saarinen explains, the new score, composed for an ensemble including violins, marimbas, and bells, “follows the emotional arc of Boléro.” According to Finnish Dance in Focus: “Saarinen’s duets seem to crystallize his entire view of dance art, his movement language and his understanding of human beings. …The dancers, a man and a woman, are two equal individuals longing for intimacy.” The New York Times agreed: “It’s a fascinating duet of attraction, aggression, and affection between a man and a woman,” with choreography that is “constantly alive and original.”
Triple Bill closes with Saarinen’s own signature solo, HUNT (2002), a multimedia masterpiece of beautifully imbalanced movement set to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. Saarinen accounts for this musical choice.
“The Rite of Spring is the cruelest and most powerful of Stravinsky’s works. Its primitiveness is frightening yet fascinating in its apparent simplicity. For me, The Rite of Spring is above all music of the unconscious. It lures out humanity’s brutish, animal sides, just at the time when they are seeking to achieve a sacred state.”
Like its musical source material, HUNT investigates the concept of sacrifice. Saarinen explains:
“In HUNT, I wanted to dive into the mind and inner conflicts of a person being sacrificed – and of the person who offers himself as sacrifice. This initial situation gave me as a performer a rare opportunity to look into myself, to freely mirror my own experiences, and even to visit the roots of my own ‘dancerhood.’”
As soloist, Saarinen becomes both hunter and hunted, while Finnish multimedia artist Marita Liulia projects additional images of his dancing onto his costume. The choreography touches upon many themes, including that of a dancer’s aging – “a kind of ‘Dying Swan’ idea,” Saarinen explains. The New York Times judged HUNT “impressive,” selecting the piece for its 2006 “Ten Best List.” The Village Voice reported: “Tero Saarinen, the remarkable Finnish choreographer-dancer, isn’t the first to choreograph Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring as a solo. But he may be the first to internalize the composer’s driving rhythms rather than stepping them out.” The Toronto Star concurred: “HUNT is remarkable on a number of levels, evoking the ballet of the past, and the 20th-century artistic and scientific movements that shook the world. It is truly a tour de force.”
Dance at Bard SummerScape 2011
Tero Saarinen Company: Triple Bill
Choreography by Tero Saarinen
Westward Ho! (1996)
Trio for male dancers
Music: Gavin Bryars (b.1943) and Moondog (1916-99)
Lighting design: Mikki Kunttu
Costume design: Tero Saarinen
Duet for male and female dancers
Music: Riku Niemi
Lighting design: Mikki Kunttu
Costume design: Erika Turunen
Solo for male dancer
Music: Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring
Multimedia: Marita Liulia
Lighting design: Mikki Kunttu
Costume design: Erika Turunen
July 7*, 8, and 9*+ at 8 pm
July 10 at 3 pm
Tickets: $25, $40, $45, $55
+ SummerScape Gala Benefit
* Round-trip transportation from Manhattan to Bard is available for these performances. Fare is $25. Reservations are required. Visit fishercenter.bard.edu/businfo for more information and reservations.
Shuttles to and from the Poughkeepsie and Rhinecliff train stations are now available for certain matinée performances. Reservations are required. Visit fishercenter.bard.edu/shuttles for more information and reservations.
Bard SummerScape Ticket Information
The Bard SummerScape Festival is made possible through the generous support of the Advisory Boards of the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts and the Bard Music Festival, and the Friends of the Fisher Center.
For tickets and further information on all SummerScape events, call the Fisher Center box office at 845-758-7900 or visit www.fishercenter.bard.edu.
Bard SummerScape: fishercenter.bard.edu/summerscape
Bard Music Festival: fishercenter.bard.edu/bmf/2010/
Tickets: firstname.lastname@example.org; or by phone at 845-758-7900
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All program information is subject to change.