Transit

Tero Saarinen‘s latest large-scale choreography examines our relationship with nature. The creation is set to Stonework (2015), Drifts (2016–17) and Water Atlas (2018) by composer Sebastian Fagerlund. The trilogy is combined with the spatial sound design of Tuomas Norvio, known for his imaginative work in electronic music.

The stage design centers on a dialog between an animated film installation by visual artist duo IC-98 and the lighting design by Minna Tiikkainen. This is the first time IC-98’s internationally praised work is seen in performing arts. The black and white video is based on material hand-drawn by pencil. Costume designer Teemu Muurimäki brings even more layers to the work as the dancers in a sense shed away their skin in an effort to unveil a new future.

”One of the most exquisite and impressive works of Tero Saarinen's career.”

- DEMOKRAATTI, 20 August 2021

“Mirrors grand themes using mythical imagery -- still leaving space for the imagination.”

- RONDO, 21 August 2021

”A particularly well balanced dialogue of various art forms.”

- HUFVUDSTADSBLADET, 20 August 2021

“Feeds the mind on many levels.”

- HELSINGIN SANOMAT, 20 August 2021

Duration
80 minutes, no intermission
Premiere
October 3, 2020, Malmö Opera, Sweden
Production
Skånes Dansteater (Sweden) with Tero Saarinen Company

Choreographer's Note

“Humankind is destroying natural diversity with its actions, habits and customs. And yet, we are all part of the flora and fauna, and profoundly enmeshed in the consequences of our actions. Our bodies are part of nature. I see dance artists as having an amplified sensitivity, power and ability – even a responsibility – to make contact and to communicate these elemental frequencies.

The vast, but vulnerable forces of nature and alienation from the environment have been starting points for my works before. In one of my earliest choreographies, Vajonneet (1993), I longed to get back to a deeper, more responsive contact between humans and nature. The inspiration for the work was the way humpback whales communicate underwater, a kind of singing. The same theme recurred in my solo piece based on George Crumb’s composition Vox Balaenae (2011), in which the last traveller alienated from nature drowns in plastic. Transit (2020) carries on this treatment of the fragile relationship between humans and nature.

I have been following IC-98’s work for years now, but the major exhibition at Kunsthalle Helsinki in 2018 stopped me in my tracks. The slow-moving, poetic, yet incisive mirrorings of the consequences of the loss of natural diversity caused by human actions touched me deeply. The thematic depth, scale and architectonic quality of the works, and the distinctive use of timespans prompted me to think about getting their works onto the stage – and into a dialogue with dance. 

Around that same time, I had developed a great interest in Sebastian Fagerlund’s production, and especially in a composition that had just been premiered, Drifts. In the end, the entire piece was rounded off by two of Fagerlund’s other compositions, Tuomas Norvio’s sound design, Teemu Muurimäki’s costume design and Minna Tiikkainen’s lighting design.

Transit is a frenzied ritual, a fight for survival in the face of great change. Even though it is dystopian, I wanted hope to be a powerful presence. I believe that a new prospect will rise out of the ashes – it is time to rediscover a connection with nature.”

– Tero Saarinen

 

Listen to Episode #7 of Dancepod by Skånes Dansteater! Samuel Denton discusses the themes and the creative process in depth with Tero Saarinen.

About the music and sound design

In Transit, composer Sebastian Fagerlund’s orchestral trilogy, inspired by the volumes of nature, is heard for the first time in its entirety all in one evening. Transit begins with the middle part of the trilogy, Drifts (2017)an initially slowly evolving piece alluding to formations created by weather, wind and water. In the choreography, it is followed by Stonework (2015), inspired by rock formations in nature and stone constructions erected by humans around the world. About the final part, Water Atlas (2018), Fagerlund has written:

“The main inspirational starting point for the work was the abstract thought of water as an element; its endless and ancient cycle of circulation, evaporation and rain. A cycle which is currently under constant threat due to pollution and climate change.

Finishing the trilogy made me realize how much I in my orchestral music have drawn from Nordic nature. The grand Finnish archipelago and sea with its vast open views as well as the islands with their raw, primary rock continue to provide me with endless inspiration.”

Tuomas Norvio’s sound design is in constant discourse with Fagerlund’s work. Drawing inspiration from the music, IC-98’s sketches and other physical elements on stage, Norvio’s spatial sound design bows to the profoundness of a vast, rugged landscape. Together with Fagerlund’s compositions and Saarinen’s choreography it plays with the micro and the macro. Norvio’s electronic soundscapes aim to emphasize a human being’s internal, mental and physical transit.

Transit

Choreography & Concept: Tero Saarinen
Music: Sebastian Fagerlund (Drifts, Stonework, Water Atlas)
Video: IC-98: Visa Suonpää, Patrik Söderlund
Lighting design: Minna Tiikkainen
Costume design: Teemu Muurimäki
Sound design: Tuomas Norvio
Choreographer’s Assistant: David Scarantino
Rehearsal Directors: Satu Halttunen, Henrikki Heikkilä
Animators: Kari Kuusela, Markus Lepistö

Dance | Jenna Broas, Nanny Hedberg (Finnish National Ballet Youth Company), Elina Häyrynen, Oskari Kymäläinen, Mikko Lampinen, Natasha Lommi, Mikko Makkonen (Dance Theatre Minimi), Edoardo Pavoni (Finnish National Ballet), Emmi Pennanen, Sofia Ruija, Saida Solla and Jing-Yi Wang
Understudies | Taru Hiitola, Edith Stenvall (Finnish National Ballet Youth Company)

Production
Skånes Dansteater and Tero Saarinen Company

Premiere
World premiere at Malmö Opera on 3 October, 2020.
Finnish premiere at Merikaapelihalli (The Cable Factory) at Helsinki Festival on 19 August, 2021.

With thanks to
Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation
The Ministry of Education and Culture Finland
Anonymous donors

Performance photos
Skånes Dansteater / Carl Thorborg
Tero Saarinen Company / Kai Kuusisto

About the video installation

The video installation by IC-98 seen in Transit, functions as an architectural bass line for the whole creation. Like the surrounding nature, the work is continuously present. Slowly changing and evolving, it comments, criticizes and mirrors everything.

“IC-98’s practice in recent years has focused on addressing the environmental crisis and artistic-political methods of finding solutions to it. The animations Nekropolis (2016) and Epokhe (2017), as well as the film Omnia mutantur (2018), are allegorical descriptions of time, climate, and how environmental and cultural histories merge in different eras. On the other hand, the site-sensitive projects House of Khronos (2016–), Mare tranquillitatis (2020), IÄI(2020) and the ongoing Misi-Raaka Park of Natural Destruction (2019–) have instead of mere artistic depiction sought to create tools and zones to help a new kind of community based on the interdependence of all organisms emerge from the crisis.

The narrative of images created for Transit stems from Nekropolis, an animation which shows a cloud of carbon released into the atmosphere over a barren, rocky landscape. The dead and buried have risen to the skies, but the earth is desolate. The energy of the sun gives life, but also suppresses it. The world is ruled by the eye of Father Sky who maintains separation, distance, and well-defined borders when the survival of all living things would require touch, entanglement, rooting together, and a return to Mother Earth.

The second scene’s wide panorama explores this possibility of a new community as life rains back down to Earth. Small particles in the atmosphere turn into rocks; rocks turn into seeds and seeds into new worlds. These worlds assimilate and pollinate, grow shoots and stalks that reach towards and mutually support each other. It is as if the ancient cyclopic eye were finally dividing, infinitely.

The heat of the sun creates a whole new world and atmosphere. Everything cross-pollinates, and a community based on reaching out and rooting together emerges from these encounters and entanglements; in minerals, soil, mycorrhizal associations, between cells and within cell walls. Our human bodies are animal bodies, and our animal bodies are composed of carbon and water, supporting and being supported by myriad worlds of other organisms. We touch and we are touched, we care for each other and we are cared for. Everything in life vibrates.”

– Patrik Söderlund (IC-98)

”Gesamtkunstwerk - simultaneously disturbing and hopeful”

- SYDSVENSKAN

“Cleverly executed [...] vibrates with energy”

- SKÅNSKA DAGBLADET

”Frighteningly beautiful — mixes the classical with the experimental.”

- KRISTIANSTADSBALDET

“Dystopia with hope for change”

- DANSTIDNINGEN

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