Review: Tero Saarinen’s Morphed

Morphed was presented at the National Arts Centre (NAC)on the 4th and 5th of October. The 60-minute contemporary dance performance attempts to answer the question: “What makes a man, a man?” and showcases Tero Saarinen, Finnish dance prodigy’s insights on it.

The piece was very subtle and open with no lyrical music or speech used whatsoever, other than the dancing of the seven male dancers on stage. It evoked a sense of inquiry with no answer, and allowed the audience to explore their own ideas and notions of maleness, masculinity, and manhood.

The dancers themselves, who were all male-presenting and mostly white, were of lean and strong stature, yet effortlessly exuded gracefulness through their expressive dance. The piece was made up of mostly of contemporary dance and accompanied by Esa-Pekka Salonen’s volatile and raw music.

Along the four corners of the stage, were large hanging strings of rope that were used as props in representing much of the struggle, push and pull, and grasping of manhood that was being portrayed in the performance.

As well, a lot of the dynamic, expressive movements were so individualised and authentic, they almost seemed unchoreographed. In other moments of the show, the group of seven men interacted with each other in interesting ways, be it as a whole group linked together or as duos experiencing emotions together through dance.

The dancers’ attire was also intriguing, as they were all in black or white, in hooded muscle tank shirts with black mesh, sleeveless tops underneath, that were revealed as the show went on. Personally, this came off as a representation of the fluidity of gender as a performance just as dance is.

The entire performance was not necessarily obvious in terms of its narrative, but it kept the audience tuned-in and evoked a lot of strong emotions. It was truly effective in inviting us into the dance itself, and experiencing those emotions with them as they performed on stage. In all honestly, it got mentally exhausting to watch it after 30 minutes or so, especially with trying to keep up with the issues of struggle that were portrayed through the experience of maleness and manhood.

All in all, the performance was captivating, dynamic, and reflective. As both a feminist and a dancer myself, I appreciate their valiant effort to literally perform gender, it’s fluidity, and it’s kinetic versatility on stage more.