From Estonia With Love by Julia Chiapella

Estonian and U.S. Dancers Come Together for Evening of Dance

Infused with a physical languor that pitched its tent from the start, “From Estonia with Love” pulled a fecund but by no means reckless joy from the well of human experience.

Cid Pearlman/Performance Projects and Santa Cruz Dance brought “From Estonia with Love” to Motion at the Mill for the first of its three-city tour. The dancers will also perform in San Francisco at the Marines’ Memorial Theater Saturday and Sunday, May 19 and 20, and the following weekend in Los Angeles.

Estonian dancers Tiina Mölder, Helen Reitsnik, Alexis Steeves, Rain Saukas, were joined by West Coast dancer David King for three of the evening’s four pieces. Filling out the program was a 2006 piece choreographed by Cid Pearlman, Catch-as-Catch-Can, performed by Santa Cruz Dance resident company Flex.

The four pieces formed a complimentary diptych, their tenaciously exploratory movements mirroring and repeating throughout the evening.

From the moment Helen Reitsnik and Tiina Mölder stepped on stage—elbows cocked, lightly fisted hands at their chests, “From Estonia with Love” pulled us into territory rich with enchantment and wariness of the wild. The soft staccato of chattering crows formed the backdrop to the women’s walk in the woods as they explored the realm of “Facing Forests.”

Choreographed by the dancers, the dance successfully breached the divide between trepidation and wonder as the two women spun, high-stepped, peered, and tumbled, each movement carefully articulated, each step taut with the unknown.

Following on its heels was “How Quickly These Accidents,” choreographed and performed by Alexis Steeves and Rain Saukas. An homage to the pair’s own attempts at traversing cultural and sexual divides—she’s from the States, he’s from Estonia—it cleverly uses a floor-length skirt to underscore the push and pull between power, desire,  and creativity as they course their way through a relationship.

“How Quickly These Accidents” is a serious game shrugged off with a side-long look, a caress of the face, its whimsy never getting the better of a struggle as hilarious as it is achingly serious. That Steeves and Saukas approach the dance with a lighthearted sense of mischief combined with technically flawless execution make this a duet of genuine magic: clever, bold, and deft.

The final two pieces of the evening were both choreographed by Pearlman. “Catch-As-Catch-Can” came first, a physically demanding piece executed with a tremendous dose of mirth by six members of Santa Cruz Dance/Motion at the Mill’s resident company, Flex.

With original music by Jonathan Segel, formerly of Camper Van Beethoven, and Rafe Pearlman, the dancers ran, leapt, swung one another, and hurled themselves onto the floor and into one another’s arms, embracing the glory of falling as if were as effortless as breathing. At one point the dancers sent a great waft of breath against the shoulders and chests of their partner, sending arms and upper bodies careening in response. The effect was mesmerizing and a testament to the thread that binds these dancers.

Finally, “This Is What We Do in Winter” was a paean to the long nights of Estonia and the work done in the soft glow of candle light. A Fulbright scholar working in Estonia at Tallinn University during the 2009-10 academic year, the piece was created during her time there.

Pille Kose’s costumes for the piece, brought from Estonia, are simple, black shifts and pants overlaid with soft umbers and off-whites. Again, the four original dancers—joined by co-chair of the Cabrillo Dance Department, David King—explored the territory between one another, negotiating physical boundaries with a raucous reverence. Pearlman is adept at exploring lines, levels, and tempo, infusing her work with an eye toward complexity that’s never overwrought yet insistently inventive.

“From Estonia with Love” perfectly bridged the cultural distance, bringing a nuanced portrait of inquisitive yet solemn adventure. It is a treasure of unguarded, thoughtful dance, elegantly performed.

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