In Morphed, a band of seven men, bursting with intense, yet multi-layered masculine energy, delve into manifold themes such as change and sensuality. Tero Saarinen‘s internationally praised choreography ranges from the brutally aggressive to the meditatively soft and minimalistic – much like the music by composer Esa-Pekka Salonen. The stunning set and lighting design by Saarinen’s long-time collaborator, Bessie-award winner Mikki Kunttu, are complemented by insightful costumes from one of Finland’s leading fashion designers, Teemu Muurimäki.
It is the unity between the language of the choreography, the evolution of the music, the transformation of the costumes and the décor of ropes, so rigid and yet so supple, that makes [Morphed] a work of such great maturity.
- DANSER, 18 January 2018 (France)
1 hour, no intermission
16 August 2014, Helsinki Festival, Finnish National Opera, Helsinki, Finland
Tero Saarinen Company (Finland) In collaboration with Helsinki Festival (Finland) and Opéra Théâtre de Saint-Étienne (France)

Choreographer's Note

Movement is a perpetual source of inspiration for me. In my works I aim to create a living, multi-layered, powerfully expressive movement that rises up from primal wellsprings. In this work I particularly wanted to play around with opposing forces and frictions.

When creating Morphed, I felt a need to bring together men of different ages and various dance backgrounds, this time to address themes such as change and sensuality. I cannot deny that turning 50 and having a performing career of more than 30 years behind me influenced my desire specifically to use the art of dance to deal with the shifting, mutating feelings that a man experiences.

When I was looking for music for the piece, I came across Esa-Pekka Salonen’s compositions Concert étude for solo horn (2000), Foreign Bodies (2001) and Violin Concerto (2009). Apart from their kinetic quality, I was inspired by how they switched from brutally aggressive to soft. Salonen’s music has provided a thought-provoking, multi-dimensional initial spark for dealing with the manifold emotions and virtuosity of a man – a man dancing.

Undaunted by the extremes of sensitivity and heroism, and all that lies between, I and these seven dancers have aspired to the boundlessness of the expressive power of the body, liberating movement – and to be human.

– Tero Saarinen


Saarinen and Salonen have worked together once before, on Mimo II, a piece made for Swedish television in 1994. Saarinen also used Salonen’s 1990 recording of The Rite of Spring with London’s Philharmonia Orchestra for one of his key works, HUNT.


Choreography Tero Saarinen
Music Esa-Pekka Salonen: Concert étude for solo horn (2000), Foreign Bodies (2001), Violin Concerto (2009)
Lighting and set design Mikki Kunttu
Costume design Teemu Muurimäki
Sound design Marco Melchior
Choreographer’s Assistants Henrikki Heikkilä, Satu Halttunen

About the Music

Concert étude for solo horn (2000), which serves as the prelude, brings out the French horn’s idiomatic melodic expression and the acrobatic skills of its player. Esa-Pekka Salonen has said that he made the work “for the great horn player [he] never became”. He wrote the concerto as homage to his revered teacher Holger Fransman.

Foreign Bodies (2001), as its name implies, is a very physical work. Its overlapping parts – Body Language, Language and Dance – display the power and movement of a large orchestra, the diverse textures and timbres of the music. Salonen has described the work as “almost like an imaginary scene de ballet”. The orchestra rolls over the listener like some massive, mechanical, relentlessly resounding, living organism. From somewhere within, the monotonic, shamanistic resonances sprout virus-like mutations and unusual harmonies.

Morphed ends with Violin Concerto (2009). This four-part [Mirage, Pulse I, Pulse II and Adieu] piece goes intriguingly from one extreme to another. It asks a great deal of its interpreters, leaving the soloist room to balance between the virtuosic and flashy, the aggressive and brutal, and the meditative or even static. Salonen has described this award winning work as a kind of summary of his experiences as a musician and a human being at the watershed age of 50. The composition process was also powerfully influenced by one of Salonen’s trusted partners, the top violinist Leila Josefowicz.


I am very happy with Tero’s work in Morphed. He understands my music very well and has discovered in it facets even I had not realized were there. Not only did he match the dance to the way the sounds resonate but he also made visible the emotional layer, which lies within the composition. There were many things that he made me notice for the first time, which was a surprise for me. This indeed, I would say, is where the real beauty of collaborations lies.

I am a bit older than him, but basically Tero and I are around the same age. I felt that Morphed speaks about male identity. Identity, meaning questions such as exactly what kind of person you are, what kind of person you are trying to become and despite everything what the actual reality is… After all, everyone has all sorts of different faces, and between each of those faces there is a gap.

– Esa-Pekka Salonen (Japan Arts, March 2015)

”Inventive and absorbing --- the set design could probably hold its own as a Turner Prize installation``

- Financial Times (UK), 2017

``Morphed proves to be an intimate and psychological piece, which offers different interpreters the chance to completely express their feelings.``

- Chroniques de danse, Antonella Poli, 28 January 2018 (France)

“Roaring applause for an unusual, individual, fascinating performance.”

- Neues Volksblatt (Austria), 2015

“Saarinen’s minimalistic yet complex choreography --- a frenetic crescendo of explosive strength and sensuality, is enhanced by Esa-Pekka Salonen’s insistent and dramatic score, as well as by the scenography and lighting design by [Mikki Kunttu].”

- (Italy), 2017

“A powerful piece --- a gently choreographed piece, which allows his dancers to convey something rough and raw”

- Allgemeine Zeitung (Germany), 2015

``Refined sensibility --- sophisticated design --- Saarinen takes the clichés of maleness and turns them inside out --- takes us on a journey that could be our own.``

- Writing About Dance, 11 September 2017 (United Kingdom)

``Saarinen manages to surround himself with his country's best artists. --- It is the unity between the language of the choreography, the evolution of the music, the transformation of the costumes and the décor of ropes, so rigid and yet so supple, that makes this contemporary ballet - swinging between freer and more grounded registers - a work of such great maturity.``

- Danser, Thomas Hahn, 18 January 2018 (France)

``Morphed is a major work in Tero Saarinen's repertoire, a great aesthetic achievement and a ballet lover's joy. --- A welcome return with a work of infinite beauty --- The dancers, all members of Tero Saarinen's company, come from diverse artistic backgrounds and are of different ages, which adds a depth of field to the choreography. They are all excellent in their own styles.``

- Danses avec la plume, Jean-Frédéric Saumont, 23 January 2018 (France)

”Morphed is a stunning choreography and the dancers skilful beyond words. You rarely get to experience something this good and as deeply affective.”

- Facebook feedback, autumn 2016

”Couldn’t help getting teary. Moving and beautiful. My most humble thanks!”

- Facebook feedback, 2015

”A gorgeous, stopping performance! The music, dance, choreography, story – a breathtaking experience.”

- Facebook feedback, 2015