The inspiration for the choreography and music are drawn from the Shakers, with some of the songs transcribed from original manuscripts. The programme explains that these songs had not been performed for 150 years and until Borrowed Light, outside the Shaker community.
When one of the Boston Camerata began to sing the hairs on my arms prickled. I have never been able to comfortably listen to soprano. Fortunately, for the rest of the 70 minute performance the singers did not utilise the high soprano notes. Some of the songs were simple chanting, others were pretty, and others were almost manic and disturbing.
The Tero Saarinen Company dancers performed a number of dancing styles, but mostly it appeared to be in character with the Shaker songs. They sometimes used their costumes as props, for example, their thick brown leather looking belts were used to support and lift each other. The swirling frenzied dancing reminded me of the dervishes, or spinning tops – until they dropped using different levels to great effect.
The stage consisted of a bare dancing floor surrounded by matt black walls. Two of the walls allowed the dancers and music ensemble to climb and stand on platforms on different levels. This added to the atmosphere, particularly when there was activity on the dance floor and movement and sound enamating from the high and low platforms. The light was often on the singer or dancer, but the others were always on stage and appeared as silhouettes.
Although I didn’t listen to the words all the time, some of the songs I found uncomfortable to disturbing. Especially when danced to with such ferocity. It reminded me of the story of The Red Shoes.
I’m pleased that I chose to see the performance of Borrowed Light (programme) although I did not come away with feelings of being entertained. More that I had witnessed a special moment, the amazing result of a collaboration between singers and dancers of an historical event.