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Borrowed light

Borrowed light

Borrowed ligth

Choreographer Tero Saarinen has been intrigued by the Shakers since the late 1980’s, when he first saw a documentary about Doris Humphrey’s  Shaker-inspired choreography. The strong communal values and strikingly  beautiful, functionalistic aesthetics of this radical religious  movement of the 18th and 19th centuries made a strong impression on  Saarinen. Over the years, he continued studying Shaker architecture,  design and ideas.

At the start of the 21st century, Saarinen came across The Boston Camerata album Simple Gifts.  The music’s manic repetition touched him deeply and the idea of a new  work began fermenting in his mind. In 2002, he contacted Joel Cohen, then Artistic Director of The Boston Camerata, about the possibility of a joint production.

The co-creative process with The Boston Camerata began with Cohen  humming melodies to Saarinen. The selection of 20 Shaker songs was made  from an archive of hundreds – some never published before. Saarinen and  Cohen met several times in Europe and the U.S., and also travelled to  the Sabbathday Lake Community in Maine to meet the four remaining  Shakers still alive at that time.

It took eighteen months of hard work for Saarinen and his collaborators to finalise the choreography and the visual form of Borrowed Light.  The work is named after the architectural practice, common for the  Shakers, of building windows into interior rooms, thus maximising  daylight and productivity. Saarinen and his trusted collaborators,  Lighting and Set Designer Mikki Kunttu and Costume Designer Erika Turunen,  approached light as a religious metaphor. The visual appearance of the  work is rooted in the aesthetic of frugality and the accentuation of  opposites. The costumes combine heavy felting with airy, transparent  fabrics. The lighting design emphasises the opposite worlds of mystical  shadows and piercingly bright light.

Even though the entire production team did not meet in one place  until a week before the premiere, the xtended working period and the  devotion of all the artists involved allowed these teo ensembles to be  seamlessly integrated into each other, into one performance.

Despite the strong influences of the Shakers, Borrowed Light addresses the themes of communitarian society on a general level: “My  main source of inspiration was the Shakers and I ended up using only  original Shaker music, but this work is not about Shakerism. It is about  community and devotion. To me the nature of total commitment – whether  religious, artistic or political – is fundamentally the same.”

Source: Tero Saarinen Company

Saarinen, Tero

Dancer-choreographer Tero Saarinen began his career as a dancer at the Finnish National Ballet in 1985. His solo career took off in 1988, after he won first prize in contemporary section of the “Concours International de Danse de Paris”. Despite his success as a soloist, he left the Finnish National Ballet in 1992 to seek new influences in contemporary dance in Western Europe and Japan, where he studied traditional Japanese dance and Butoh from 1992 to 1993. He has worked with several internationally renowned choreographers and is still considered one of the world's most significant dancers of his generation.

Saarinen has made more than 30 creations during his career. He founded his own group in 1996 as a canvas for his choreographic work. Apart from his work for Tero Saarinen Company and teaching his movement technique, his handiwork can also be seen in the premieres  commissioned by several other prominent dance groups.

As a choreographer Saarinen is known for his unique movement language that plays with balance, and off-balance. Influences ranging from Butoh and martial arts to classical ballet and Western contemporay dance can be seen in his style. His works, which have won wide international acclaim, are characteristically total artworks : combinations of unique choreography, strong performers, striking visu    als, and often, live music.

Source : Tero Saarinen Company 's website

More information


Narboni, Louise

Louise Narboni was born in 1978. After studies in Cinema and operatic singing, she turned to shooting musical films. She is also a musical script, assistant to Opera direction and film editor, most notably on Jean-Paul Civeyrac' films, "Filles en noir" (2010) and "Malika s’est envolée" (2008). Her work includes: in 2011, Brahms 's "Concerto for piano n°2", Dvorak's "Symphony n°5", by the Paris Orchestra and Leif Ove Andsnes, "Les Contes du chat perché", opéra rural, directed by Caroline Gauthier, music by Jean-baptiste Singier (Arte).

Source : Les films de l'air website

More information :

Borrowed light

Artistic direction / Conception : Tero Saarinen / The Boston Camerata

Choreography : Tero Saarinen

Interpretation : Tero Saarinen Company : Satu Halttunen, Henrikki Heikkila, Annika Hyvärinen, Carl Knif, Sini Lansivuori, Pekka Louhio, Maria Nurmela, Heikki Vienola

Set design : Mikki Kunttu

Original music : Musique originale des Shakers réarrangée par Joel Cohen. Direction musicale Joel Cohen et Anne Azéma

Live music : Direction : Joel Cohen, Anne Azéma - Interprétation : Avec les chanteurs de The Boston Camerata : Anne Azéma (soprano), Carolann Buff (mezzo-soprano), Susan Consoli (soprano), Daniel Hershey (ténor), Joel Nesvadba (baryton), Camila Parias (soprano), Ryan Turner (ténor), Donald Wilkinson (baryton-basse)

Additionnal music : Liste des chants : In Yonder Valley, Solemn Song, Clamanda & March, Mother Ann’s Comforting Promise, Holy Order Song, Unnamed dance tune, Repentance, I Have a Soul to be Saved or Lost, Fall on the Rock, Voice of the Angels of Mercy, Virgins Clothed in a Clean White Garment, Verdant Grove, Simple Gifts, Turning Shuffle Tune, O ho, the Pretty Chain, The Great Wheel, Mother’s Warning, Mother Ann’s Song, Encouragement, O Will You Sing Another Song, Holy Mother’s Protecting Chain Transcription des chants shaker Anne Azéma, Joel Cohen et Donald Patterson / Mixage et arrangements Joel Cohen (SACEM) Remerciements à la communauté Shaker de Sabbathday Lake (Maine) pour l’autorisation d’utiliser des sources manuscrites inédites

Lights : Mikki Kunttu

Costumes : Erika Turunen

Sound : Heikki Iso-Ahola

Production / Coproduction of the choreographic work : Production Tero Saarinen Company Coproduction Octobre en Normandie / Dansens Hus (Suède) / Kuopio Dance Festival (Finlande) / et Festival Civitanova Danza (Italie) / Le Volcan – scène nationale du Havre / Teatri di Civitanova (Italie) / Atelier 231 – Pôle régional des arts de la rue – Sotteville-lès-Rouen Avec le soutien de Culture 2000 – Programme de l’Union européenne, du ministère de l’Éducation et de la Culture en Finlande, du Conseil national pour la danse en Finlande, de la Fondation Florence Gould Remerciements à la ville d’Helsinki (Finlande) et à l’ambassade de Finlande à Paris

Production / Coproduction of the video work : 24 images production

Duration : 1h10

A propos de la tradition musicale des Shakers

About the musical tradition of the Shakers 

Shaker music employs the simplest means to achieve extraordinary levels of beauty and emotional intensity. The forms are generally short and binary, and use the melodic and modal language of English folk songs. The composers of these pieces were ordinary Shakers encouraged by the community to express their spirituality through song. At the height of the Shaker movement, the performance of this music was exclusively vocal, performed by a chaste community, a cappella and in unison. Thus, this repertoire of sacred vocal music is in a way the American equivalent of Gregorian chant. However, an important difference from the latter is the frequent presence of spirited dance rhythms which make these songs, yesterday as today, perfect means of expressing religious sentiment through movement. Several thousand of these songs have been transcribed by the Shakers, but until recently only a few were known outside the community. Much of the music in Borrowed Light was transcribed from manuscripts and remains unpublished to this day. For two songs, in this case - Repentance and Verdant Grove - we believe Borrowed Light is playing them for the first time outside of the community, and has done so for over 150 years. 


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