Maria Caruso and Maria Caruso’s Bodiography – Metamorphosis
The Factory – Pittsburgh, PA
February 29, 2020
Part (intended) local stage farewell for company founder Maria Caruso and part Gala revealing Bodiography‘s future as an organization, Metamorphosis, February 29 at Pittsburgh’s The Factory, carried with it a heightened sense of excitement for those lucky enough to attend. And while announcements of Bodiography’s new studio/office facilities, new artistic leadership team, a new company moniker and an off-Broadway production were big doings, it was Caruso delivering the kind of seminal solo performance that artists dream of that was by far the evening’s biggest payoff.
The festivities took place on an upper floor and mostly raw warehouse space at The Factory. After food, drink, socializing and announcements, the evening’s performances in-the-round began with the Caruso choreographed duet “Mentality Toiled Empathy” (2007). It was performed by Amanda Fisher and Melissa Tyler, newly appointed co-associate artistic directors of the now “Maria Caruso’s Bodiography” dance company.
Set to music by Australian composer Barrington Pheloung, the striking duet danced barefoot, featured sharply-defined balletic positions, back-bending lunges and rounded arms that graced the dancers’ bodies. The work adopted a tone of hopefulness with the veteran company dancers smooth and crisp in their interpretation of Caruso’s stylized and beautiful choreography.
Next, Caruso took the stage for the U.S. premiere of her internationally-acclaimed solo “Metamorphosis” (2018). Set to music by Garth Stevenson, Kevin Keller and Nils Frahm, she had on one side of her the backdrop of the city’s night sky visible through large windows. And as in the line from Milton’s ode The Hymn: “The stars with deep amaze, stand fix’d in steadfast gaze,” Caruso’s dancing appeared to transfix the heavens and the sold-out audience. Embracing the gravity of the moment, Caruso unleashed in her solo a passionate portrayal of a woman knowledged in the heartaches and joys of life that was bursting with her anxieties, sadness, soaring giddiness and breathless embracing of love and desire.
Delivered in a series of vignettes, each marked by her donning a different colored dress, the nearly hour-long solo had Caruso reliving pivotal emotional states in her life and career. Injected into her thoughtful and soul-baring contemporary dance choreography, were facial expressions and a carriage of the body rife with intense feelings. The most impactful of these were when sorrow welled up from inside her. One such moment saw her slump against a support column in tears and then sink to the floor, bringing with her audience members’ hearts.
Whether emerging from fabric a cocoon, wearily bringing a fistful of her long hair into her mouth or defiantly whipping discarded hair ties into the audience, Caruso shone. Receiving a standing ovation at solo’s end, her performance ranks among the finest seen in the region in recent memory.
Rounding out the evening’s dance selections was a reprise of Caruso’s 2012 ballet, “Fractured and Rebuilt” performed by dancers of Maria Caruso’s Bodiography. Danced to music by Italian composer Ludovico Einaudi, the sweeping work for 7 dancers inspired by the idea of re-building fractured lives, was characterized by the elongated side bends, petite jumps and arm-tossing hops of the dancers about the stage.
A thrilling celebration of the globe-trotting Caruso and company, as well as insight into the future of Bodiography (and to an extent The Performing Arts Department at La Roche University), Metamorphosis was a triumph.
Steve Sucato is a former dancer turned arts writer/critic. He is Chairman Emeritus of the Dance Critics Association and Associate Editor of ExploreDance.com.