ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Cid Pearlman and an international cast bring a piece of Estonia to Santa Cruz in ‘From Estonia With Love’
It all began in Estonia. Cid Pearlman was a Fulbright Scholar, teaching at Tallinn University for the 2009-2010 academic year. She spent the long winter instructing and researching, but most importantly, collaborating with five talented dance artists, three Estonians and two Americans: Tiina Mölder, Rain Saukas, Helen Reitsnik, Alexis Steeves and David King.
Two years later, Pearlman has organized a California tour in order to bring these creative forces to audiences in Santa Cruz, San Francisco and Los Angeles. And after much hard work, “From Estonia With Love” will make its long-awaited debut on May 17 and 18 at Motion at the Mill.
“From Estonia With Love” is sectioned into four distinct parts. As the producer and artistic director of the performance, Pearlman is presenting two pieces, one with a Santa Cruz-based cast, and one with an Estonian cast. Guest choreographers, Tiina Mölder, Rain Saukas, Helen Reitsnik, and Alexis Steeves, will also be presenting work independent of Pearlman’s direction.
The first piece, “catch-as-catch-can,” which made its premiere in 2006, will be performed by dancers from Motion Pacific Studio’s resident dance company, Flex. “It is a piece about flying and falling,” explains Pearlman, “a post-modern contemporary punk-rock folk dance with really big juicy physicality.” It will feature an original score by Jonathan Segel, well known as the violinist and guitarist for local band Camper Van Beethoven, and a longtime collaborator with Pearlman. Music selections are predominantly instrumental throughout “From Estonia With Love,” with the exception of a vocal piece in “catch-as-catch-can” by Pearlman’s brother, Rafe Pearlman.
“This is what we do in winter,” Pearlman’s second piece, was born out of the collaboration in Estonia and will be performed by Mölder, Saukas, Reitsnik, Steeves, and King. Centered on the way in which Pearlman and the cast got to know each other, the production was constructed to highlight the uniqueness of each dancer. “I make work that really privileges the individual,” says Pearlman. “I’m not interested in [my dancers] being characters or furniture, but rather being themselves within the work.”
Pearlman’s productions are known for their partnering work, and “From Estonia With Love” is no exception. “People are rolling on each other, and touching each other, and looking at each other,” she says. “It is an extraordinary way to get to know people.” Each of the show’s four segments celebrate contemporary post-modern dance styles with instrumental accompaniment.
Pearlman felt it was imperative that her collaborators have a chance to share their work with California audiences. “It’s my job to help promote them as choreographers, not only as dancers,” says Pearlman. “They have ownership over their work, people should see it, and they should experience who they are without being mediated through my choreography.”
The third piece of the production, entitled “How quickly these accidents,” is the result of a first-time experimental collaboration between Saukas and Steeves. “We didn’t want to avoid our general attraction to humor,” Saukas says of the piece. “Not taking ourselves too seriously became a guiding principle both in the process and in the performance.”
The final piece is a premiere, choreographed by Estonian dancers Reitsnik and Mölder, called “Facing Forest,” which draws inspiration from the trees, swamps, and bogs that make up the Estonian landscape. “I don’t like to generalize, because each person is unique, but Estonians in general have a deep connection with nature,” observes Pearlman. “This piece really speaks to that.”
The scope of “From Estonia With Love” is immense, thanks in part to support from the Fulbright Program of the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Embassy in Estonia, and the near 200 donors who contributed funds to the project. Pearlman’s motto—creating art for community and communities for artists—resonates throughout the production.
“An international cast really exemplifies this community’s deep-seeded wanderlust,” says Abra Allan, director of Motion at the Mill. “This deep desire to travel and explore other cultures continues to serve this community well with ongoing artistic collaborations being born regularly between local and international artists.”
Asked what aspect of the U.S. tour she is most looking forward to, Steeves replied, “Touring the work and refining the ideas we are proposing through performance … and, of course, sun.”
“From Estonia With Love” debuts at 8 p.m. Thursday, May 17 and Friday, May 18 at Motion at the Mill, 131 Front St., Santa Cruz. For more information and tickets, visit santacruzdance.com. PHOTO CREDIT: Reio Aare.