'I am soaked with art'

'I am soaked with art'

Tero Saarinen has had a distinguished international career, both as a dancer and a choreographer. With more than 40 creations and numerous accolades to his name, the Finnish artiste is a well-known name in the field of dance. He is also the founder of ‘Tero Saarinen Company’, Finland’s leading contemporary dance troupe and is known for his unique movement language, ‘an inventive mixture of grotesqueness and beauty’.

In the city to perform for the recently concluded Attakkalari Biennial, Tero presented ‘Westward Ho!’, a melancholic portrayal of friendship by a male trio. He spoke to Rajitha Menon about his entry into the world of movement and the need to keep old traditions alive.

How did you get interested in dance?
It was my father who introduced me to this world.He took me to a dance class when I was 16 years old; before that, I was focussed on sports, like most boys of my age. But my father thought that dance required a certain skill which I seemed to possess.

How would you describe your style?
I was lucky enough to be exposed to several cultures while growing up and have experimented with forms like classical ballet and contemporary movement. I amalgamate all of these in my own style.

Tell us a bit about your performances here...
One is ‘Westward Ho!’ which is performed by a male trio. It was the first piece choreographed by my company, in 1996, and I am happy that it is living till now. The production is about friendship and explores whether anyone will stand by you or whether a person is ultimately always alone.

The other one is a solo piece. Titled ‘man in a room’, it was choreographed for me by another dancer, Carolyn Carlson. It was inspired by the paintings of Mark Rothko and talks about the solitude of an artist and his longing for inspiration.

What does dance mean to you?
It is a way of living and understanding life. I can relate to this world through movement.

How’s your time in India turning out?
It is my first time in India. While Finland is calm, quiet and dark, India is the complete opposite (laughs). There is so much colour and sound here; it is very exciting and inspiring. The visual reality that I see here is very different from what I am used to.

Thoughts about Indian dance...
I have seen performances of Indian dancers when they conduct European tours and after coming here, I got a chance to watch some beautiful performances. I feel it is wonderful that old dance traditions are still being kept alive here and are being practised by so many people.

Finland has a very young dance history so India has been a thrilling experience for me in that way.

Some people feel that olden dance forms shouldn’t be experimented with...
Experimentation is quite  necessary but that doesn’t mean that the art should be diluted. It is very necessary to keep old traditions alive and pass them on; a 1000-year old heritage is something to be cherished.

However contemporary one thinks he is, they should go back and learn from where everything started.

What are your other hobbies?
I don’t have much time for hobbies actually. I watch a bit of sports and I like painting. I like going to exhibitions and getting inspired by other artistes and other art forms. I love art in all forms; I am soaked with art.

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