The most striking thing about the Finnish Tero Saarinen Company’s Morphed was the extraordinarily clamorous music by Esa-Pekka Salonen. Slightly dissonant but heaving with mighty swellings of glorious noise, it was a series of three constantly surprising orchestral scores that weren’t going to let you ignore them. Would Saarinen’s choreography stand up against this tremendous aural assault?
Well, the first twenty minutes or so was quite brilliant. It started with all seven hooded male dancers sharply walking squares and diamonds of differing sizes to the tippling sound of a horn – it was mesmeric tracing the paths of how they kept narrowly missing each other. After a short while the first whack of Salonen’s Foreign Bodies kicked in and the dancers were set loose with big, expansive ensemble movements; suddenly we were in Pina Bausch Rite of Spring territory. The dancing was ferociously mobile but strictly organised and it worked fantastically with the music.
After that, however, Morphed started focusing in on individuals and small groups and somehow it lost momentum. There were still some wonderful moments – the excellent Ima Iduozee juiced out a sinewy solo and can bounce to heights like no man I’ve seen before, and all seven dancers rotating with joined hands was a hugely powerful image – but there was an awful lot of padding to wade through too. Like a surprisingly large amount of contemporary dance, an art-form that invariably claims subversiveness in its DNA, Morphed can’t resist a good cliché. Ferocious staring at the audience? Check. Someone walking very slowly across the back of the stage for no good reason? Check. Bare-chested man? Check, times seven.
Mikki Kunttu’s intriguing set was underused. It consisted of loads of pairs of ropes hanging from the flies across three sides of the stage. At one point they were all given a good shake to a particularly vigorous section of music, unsettling the watching mind and looking great in the process. Apart from that, however, they were generally used for the dancers to walk through and occasionally mould into crazy hairdos.
Even if it does run on way too long at one hour, there are plenty of original and interesting ideas in Morphed, as well as some terrific dancing. In the end, though, the music came out on top – not a big problem, really, as it sounds so darned good you don’t mind sitting through the duller bits at all.