classically trained dancer whose whole body conveys emotion on stage,
Saarinen was a pupil of the Ballet School of the Finnish National Opera
for three years before he joined the company in 1985.
astonishing talent and blue-eyed Nordic good looks, he was rapidly
promoted soloist, dancing all the main roles in the then mainly
classical repertory, and in 1988, he won the gold medal in the
Paris International Dance
Competition , contemporary section, with a solo created for him by
Jorma Uotinen, now director of the Finnish National troupe. (This solo
was the base of Uotinen's most well-known work, Ballet Pathéthique,
premiered in Helsinki the following year).
" My career
really took off then ", Saarinen told me. " It slowly dawned
on me that there were other goals in life besides trying to be like
Baryshnikov. Dance became a whole new world and suddenly lots of
possibilities opened up and I started to find my own way. "
was brought up in a small village where dance was unknown, and I didn't
start learning until I was seventeen which was maybe too late for me to
become a prince. I felt limited because fifteen years ago, there were
close links with Russia , and everything was a little old-fashioned ",
" Then we started doing short modern pieces which
awoke my interest in contemporary ballet, and I saw the work of Uotinen
and other Finnish modernists which made me realise there were other
things I wanted to say, and other ways of expressing them ".
explained how he began creating solos for himself quite naturally, "
I made no sudden decision to become a choreographer, but I wanted to
dance ballets based on my own experience. I created honest pieces
reflecting my life, and it felt right ", he said.
great change in his career came in 1992 when he left the National Ballet
and moved to Japan for a year, where he studied martial arts, Butoh
dance, and Kabuki. He learnt Nepalese dance at the Kalamandapa
Institute, Katmandu, where there was a totally different approach and
way of thinking.
Most of my time after this seemed to be spent on tour ", Saarinen
told me. " I danced with an American group, worked in Germany, went
to Italy with Daniel Erzalow, and took part in Johann Kresnik's theatre
production Francis Bacon. But I wanted to use all the experience
I'd accumulated and do something more permanent with people who wanted
to work with me ", the choreographer said, " so when I got
funding from the Finnish government three years ago, I created my own
company, " Toothpick ".
There are two Israelis, a
Norwegian, and three Finns, all with a classical background in the
troupe, interpreting a growing repertoire of works by Carolyn Carlson,
Jorma Uotinen and Tero Saarinen himself..
was the first piece Saarinen wrote for his new company. " I was
brought up next to the sea which I love, so it's about sailors and
friendship ", he said. " It begins at dawn, then it's midday,
finally evening. It could be a day in one's life, or a whole lifetime,
depending upon how the audience perceives, or receives it. I almost
became a painter before I discovered dance, so now I try to mix the two,
and I design both costumes and set very often. When there's light in
Finland, it's very strong for twenty-four hours, then there is darkness
for many days, so lighting is very important for me, again a reflection
of my upbringing. "
In Westward Ho, the stage is
totally white. The costumes are pure white, and there is a strong blue
light. It's very Nordic, and very beautiful . " Nordic gloom "
, he added. But the smile that illumined his face belied his words.
Tero Saarinen's spare time is spent in the Fnac( the largest music and
book store in France) " I'm always listening to music ", he
told me, " and I use many different kinds in my work. Sometimes
there's a long period of classical. At the moment I'm planning to use
Gaspard de la Nuit by Ravel for my next creation in Lyons ; it's
a lovely piece of music, meditative ; and I'm already working on this
ballet for four dancers in my head.
" Next summer I want
to create a new version of Pulcinella because Stravinsky's score
fascinates me, and I've choreographed a short piece for the Theatre de
Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines , programmed for May. "
Hoche, with his company, "Mémé Banjo", based in
St. Etienne is billed to appear with Saarinen at the suburban theatre,
currently presenting Claude Brumachon, director of the Centre Nationale
France actually has six or seven national theatres,
and twenty-eight flourishing choreographic groups, or Centres
Nationales, smaller companies directed by young French
choreographers firmly implanted in cities outside the capital.
whose base is Helsinki added, "I'd love to establish my company
here. France is in the middle of Europe, and has a dance audience
lacking in Finland, with its population of barely five million scattered
over such a wide area. Outside Helsinki you can count yourself lucky to
get eighty people to see your performance !"