ZUGA dancers set out to build a city

  • 2004-03-04
  • By Steve Roman
TALLINN - Once they turned Tallinn's seedy train station into their dance stage.

In Germany, they actually performed on board a tram. It's impossible to predict just how the highly acclaimed United Dancers of ZUGA will surprise audiences next, but whatever they do is always a bit mischievous, highly experimental and destined to push the limits of contemporary performance art.
The same can be said of their latest offering, "ZUGA builds a city," which will run from March 7 - 11 in the Kanuti Guild Hall's studio.
For this performance, as odd as it sounds, electric guitar soloists Kalle and Heikki Tikas from the group Beggar's Farm take the stage along with two dancers, Helen Reitsnik and Tiina Molder to fill the small studio with a mixture of music, dance movement and spoken dialogue.
"The important thing is how they speak," said the show's director, Kaja Kann. "If they speak with rhythm in time with the music, or they speak very loudly or quietly - this is very connected with the music we are playing at the same time."
But understanding the Estonian script won't be crucial to appreciating the 50-minute piece - there will be quite a bit of action on the stage. "Sometimes the guys are moving, walking or jumping, and the girls are doing the music with their legs," said Kann.
She characterizes "Zuga builds a city," which gets its name from an old Estonian saying about making grand plans but never carrying them out, as being nice, warm and, above all, "human." "It is slow and calm, this is the main feeling. But as in life, it's not that kind of feeling all the time," she said.
Not really a dance company per se, the United Dancers of ZUGA, which was formed in 1999, is actually a collaboration of three choreographer/dancers, Kann, Molder and another artist, Jarmo Karing. Sometimes they work together, sometimes separately, usually bringing in other dancers to participate in the performances, Priit Raud, the Artistic Director of the Kanuti Guild Hall, explained.
Whatever the formula, it seems to work. Perfor-mances they've put on in cities all over Western Europe and New York have met with praise. What's going to be different about this performance, however, is that it's going to be held in the guildhall's tiny, 30-seat studio.
"It's quite an intimate atmosphere. So I think it's going to be a very fascinating and interesting piece," said Raud.
Tickets cost 90 kroons (5.75 euros) - 50 kroons for students and children - and will be available at the door of the Kanuti Guild. Considering the size of the hall though, it may be wise to buy them ahead of time from the Von Krahl Theater since it's sure to sell out.

"Zuga builds a city"
Kanuti Guild
20 Pikk, Tallinn
March 7 - 11, 7:30 p.m.