By Steve Sucato
Pittsburgh Current Dance Writer
In the city dance icon Martha Graham hailed from, working out of the studio dance legend Gene Kelly began in, Maria Caruso’s Bodiography has a lot of history on its side. So it should come as no surprise the contemporary ballet company would make a little history of its own.
For the company’s 2018-19 home season finale, Horizons, April 26 & 27 at downtown’s Byham Theater, they join with New York-based Graham 2 in a shared program, marking the first such collaboration in each company’s history and Graham 2’s Pittsburgh debut.
Bodiography and Graham 2 present Horizons, 8 p.m., Friday, April 26 & Saturday, April, 27. Byham Theater, 101 6th Street, Downtown. Tickets are $46.25 – 66.25 and available online at TrustArts.org, by calling (412) 456-6666 or at the box office at Theater Square.
The training company of the famed Martha Graham Dance Company, Graham 2 is a pre-professional dance company drawn from the most advanced students of the Martha Graham School. And like other second companies, it is also the place to see tomorrow’s dance stars before they go nova.
You might say Bodiography and especially Caruso’s career of late have gone nova. Both tour more than many Pittsburgh–based dance companies across the country and globe. Just this spring and summer, Caruso and/or Bodiography have toured or will be on tour in Ireland, Germany, England, South Africa, New York, New Jersey, China, Bermuda and Israel. In addition, opportunities like the collaborations with the Graham organization are on the rise.
For their shared 90-minute program of short works, Graham 2’s quartet of dancers (Aoi Sato, Androniki Vasili, Ty Graynor, Harold Trent Butler) will perform the Graham choreographed works “Conversation of Lovers” from 1981’s Acts of Light, “a duet exploring the constant, yet ever-changing, ties that exist between lovers” to music by Carl Nielsen; the reconstructed “Satyric Festival Song” (1932) that was “inspired by American Indian Pueblo culture and the clowns who satirize and mock the sacred rituals” and is danced to music by Fernando Palacios, and “Moon Duet” from Canticle for Innocent Comedians (1952), a work remembered for Helen Keller attending a rehearsal of it.
The company will also perform Ted Shawn’s “Serenata Morisca” (1916), a solo described as a sort of “sensual serenade” and the premiere of “InsideOUT (The call of passion),” an introspective and emotional work Caruso created especially for Graham 2’s dancers to a yearning score by English composer Clint Mansell.
“The work is for and about the dancers,” says Caruso. “It is a reflection of how I see them and I think how they want the world to see them.”
For Bodiography’s part, the company will present shorter contemporary ballet selections from their repertory all choreographed by Caruso to contrast the Graham works including two ballets for seven women “Midnight Air” (2018), a work reflecting a calming summer breeze and 2017’s “Parabola”, set to music by Swedish electronic music duo The Knife. Additionally, the company will perform “The Light of Love” (2015), a love story in pas de duex form and three premiere ballets: “Mother’s Prism”, danced to music by Ólafur Arnalds and Dustin O’Halloran reflecting the many facets of motherhood, “Billboards”, a 1980s-inspired female quartet danced to music by electronica band Quixotic, and “Vespers,” a duet danced by Caruso and Derrick Izumi.
The company led by Caruso as lead soloist will also perform Graham’s “Steps in the Street” (1936). Staged by Graham 2 director Virginie Mecéné, the work, subtitled “Devastation – Homelessness – Exile,” is set to music by American composer Wallingford Riegger and is an excerpt from Graham’s larger work Chronicle. The dance was created as “a response to the menace of fascism in Europe” during WWII that included Graham famously refusing an invitation by the Nazi regime to take part in the 1936 Olympic Games in Germany.
Mecéné, by phone from New York described “Steps in the Street’s” message as being timely to our current global environment. “It is powerful and you learn a lot about history and humanity with a work like this,” she says.
Rounding out the program will be a special performance by former Martha Graham Dance Company star Carrie Ellmore-Tallitsch performing the premiere of Caruso’s Roots to Earth. Set to music by Portland band East Forest, the 10-minute solo reflects on Ellmore-Tallitsch’s interest in nature. In a rehearsal video of the solo I viewed recently, Ellmore-Tallitsch brings a maturity and stage presence to Carsuo’s soul-inhabiting solo chorography usually only done justice by her.