By Steve Sucato
Don’t talk to Maria Caruso about slowing down. The 37-year-old founder/artistic director of Pittsburgh’s Bodiography Contemporary Ballet who has had more retirements and comebacks as a performer than NFL quarterback Brett Favre is a self-described workaholic. In addition to overseeing BCB and sister performance companies BCB3, a troupe of veteran former BCB company members and BCB Charlotte, a North Carolina branch company, Caruso also heads Bodiography’s Center for Movement and its dance education and fitness and wellness programs as well as chairs the Performing Arts Department at La Roche College. For Caruso “busy” is her resting state. So it should come as no surprise that despite recent health issues she would take on even more. Later this year and next Caruso will embark on a 2.5 million dollar expansion of Bodiography’s Center for Movement facility in Squirrel Hill, adding new studios and a convertible black box performance space to the historic building that once housed Hollywood legend Gene Kelly’s first dance studio.
Also in 2019, BCB will head to Europe for a weeklong tour with performances in London and Manchester, England, Berlin and Paris. That tour will feature Caruso’s “Doors and Windows” (2018), a ballet she calls the finest she has choreographed for the 17-year-old company. A reprise of that work plus a world premiere from Caruso and three Pittsburgh premieres of works created for BCB’s annual Southern Tours will make up the company’s 2017-18 season-ending program Highlights, this Saturday, May 12 at Downtown’s Byham Theater.
Kicking off the all-Caruso choreographed program will be “Break the Verse” (2018). The 8–minute work for 11-dancers to a score by Pittsburgh composer Austin Beckman of experimental band Walrus Tales, is a reaction to the music says Caruso. “The music is a journey through a soundscape of intense pulsating rhythms and soft, poetic classical string music,” says Caruso. “The dancers begin the work as this organically moving pod and then progress through some really powerful duets.”
2017’s “Walkways” was more of “an experiment” says Caruso. For the 6-miunte work for 7-dancers set to music by Swiss-born electronic musician Massivan (a.k.a. Ivan Pezzini), Caruso says she “wanted to do a piece with really strong pointe work and athleticism that was completely outside the box crossing boundaries between classical ballet and contemporary forms.”
Originally inspired by and created on the 5 women of BCB Charlotte, the aptly titled “Really?!” (2018) taps into their frustrations as young working mothers navigating adulthood. The 7-minute work with music by Kansas City’s Quixotic has been adapted for 8 of BCB’s female dancers in Pittsburgh.
Inspired by a scene from 2018 Academy Award Best Picture-winner The Shape of Water, the world premiere of Caruso’s “Submerged” with music composer Olafur Arnalds and Quixotic by looks to impart a feeling of being submerged says Caruso. The 16-minute for 12-dancers including Caruso will present a serene world in which the dancers appear to float and fall at peace with their surroundings.
Rounding out the program will be the aforementioned “Doors and Windows” (2018). Performed to music by The 1975, Ludovico Einaudi, Kevin Keller, and Sigur Ros, the 36-minute ballet says Caruso is “the story of Bodiography told through the eyes of a Bodiography artist.” With narration by Amanda Fisher the cast of 7-dancers including Caruso, encapsulates and chronicle’s Bodiography’s evolution.
Bodiography Contemporary Ballet performs Highlights, 8 p.m., Saturday, May 12, Byham Theater – 101 6th St.; $25; (412) 456-6666 or trustarts.org.
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.