By Steve Sucato
Pittsburgh Current Dance Writer
No other professional dance company in the region has had a bigger transformation in recent years than Maria Caruso’s Bodiography.
The once little-known company outside of Pittsburgh who predominately performed the contemporary ballet choreography of founding artistic director Caruso, has of late gone global with tours to China, South Africa, Bermuda and across Europe and has embraced more choreographic voices outside the company. Part of that outward thinking has been a unique relationship Caruso has fostered with New York-based, The Martha Graham Dance Company and those closely associated with it.
Last April Bodiography partnered with primer company Graham 2 in a shared program; the first such collaboration in either company’s history. That Graham lineage relationship continues in Bodiography’s latest production, Unveiled, February 7 & 8 at the Byham Theater when Caruso and company collaborate with Graham 2 director Virginie Mécène and former Graham Company star Jacqulyn Buglisi and her Buglisi Dance Theatre.
Bodiography Contemporary Ballet presents Unveiled, 8 p.m., Friday, February 7 and Saturday, February 8; Byham Theater, 101 6th St., Downtown, $20-60, (412) 456-6666 or trustarts.org.
The 90-minute Unveiled will open however, with a reprise of Ze’eva Cohen’s 20-minute “Meditation on a Square,” commissioned by Bodiography in 2006. The distinguished former Anna Sokolow Dance Company dancer and professor of dance emerita at Princeton University has as a choreographer created works for Boston Ballet, North Carolina Dance Theatre (now Charlotte Ballet) and Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company and Inbal Dance Theater.
Set to an ambient score by Scottish multi-percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie, Caruso describes Cohen’s work for 4 women and 3 men as being about femininity and sensuality filtered through the surreal lens of a Salvador Dali painting.
It will be followed by 2 ballets by Caruso beginning with 2012’s “Fractured and Rebuilt” to the music of Ludovico Einaudi. Performed by 7 dancers from Bodiography’s pre-professional company BCB2, “Fractured and Rebuilt” takes its inspiration from Caruso’s surgeon husband Alan who she says others look to when fractured lives need rebuilding.
The premiere of Caruso’s 15-minute work for 6 dancers “No Strings Attached,” also set to music by Einaudi along with the Nelue song “No strings Attached” (feat. Kayele) offers a counterpoint to many heartfelt works on the program offering up a “fun, sexy and digestible” piece inspired by Caruso’s recent world travels and her thoughts about the vastness of the universe.
The program’s second half will begin with the Pittsburgh premiere of Buglisi’s signature duet “Threshold” (1991). Performed by Buglisi Dance Theatre mainstays Mécène and husband Kevin Predmore, the creative impetus for the 18-minute work set to Estonian composer Arvo Pӓrt’s Fratres, came at a crossroads in Buglisi’s life when emotions about the death of her mother and subsequently her mentor Martha Graham crossed with the emotions she was feeling surrounding the birth of her son.
Spurred by the music and the words of one of her favorite poet Rainier Maria Rilke, Buglisi, by phone from New York, says the movement creation for “Threshold” came quickly at the time.
“The work expresses a sense of that vast liminal space where you are ready to step through a threshold,” says Buglisi — “A place of transcendence.”
Next, the premiere of Mécène’s “Curse Upon Iron” gets its direction from another Estonian composer Veljo Tormis’ music the work is titled after.
“The shamanic drum and the intensity heard in the singers’ voices [in the music] made me curious about its meaning,” says Mecéné. “Its text expresses concerns with knowing the source of iron in order to overcome its deadly power.”
Mecéné says she wanted the 7-minute work’s 9-dancers to “demand a sincere expression directly from the core of the dancers’ bodies.”
Buglisi’s latest work, the solo “In the name of the fire, and the flame, and grace” (2019), is a reaction to the current world refugee crisis. In part, says Buglisi, the multi-layered work also took inspiration from Heidi Andrea Restrepo Rhodes’ 2018 Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize-winning book “The Inheritance of Haunting,” that speaks to the feeling of being invisible in the world, says Buglisi. Set to music Max Richter the solo will be performed by former Graham Company principal dancer Blakeley White-McGuire.
A sequel to Caruso’s critically-acclaimed romantic pas de deux “Light by Love” (2015), the premiere of “Light by Love 2” picks up where the original left off. It explores the next step in the relationship between two young lovers danced (this time) by Bodiography’s Bethany Schimonsky and guest dancer Ty Graynor from the Limón Dance Company.
Rounding out the emotionally dense program will be 2 more premieres by Caruso, the transformative solo “Unveiled” performed by Caruso to music by Dustin Slight Delay, and the symbolic and spiritual group work “Psalm 23” set to music by Bobby McFerrin.