Friday December 7, 2012 - Annmaria Mazzini and her company of nine dancers appeared at the Paul Taylor Dance Company Studio this evening. A full house, studded with dance-world luminaries, were treated to an evening of dance and film as Ms. Mazzini, beautiful and beloved as a dancer, embarks on a new creative phase. The centerpiece of the performance was CHANGELING, an all-female ensemble work influenced in part by the fantasy artwork of Sarah Seddon Boulet (above).
Opening the evening was a passionate, end-of-the-affair duet entitled DRAWN. Danced by Evelyn Wheeler and Yon Burke to My Lips Are Red by St. Vincent, this is love on the brink. The delectably sexy/vulnerable Ms. Wheeler in an red frock attempts to keep her hold on her long-time lover, the hunky Mr. Burke who's dressed in a shirt and tie. But he's become impervious to her wiles and their duet turns bitter and almost violent: he flings her to the floor in a way that went beyond theatricality. Nonetheless, she won't give up. She makes yet another attempt; you can almost hear Yon screaming "Get off my back!" as the lights fade. Having been on both sides of the relationship coin, this duet had a special resonance for me.
I'd never seen the truly inventive short film THE PINK PONY in which the luscious Ms. Mazzini waits in a local cafe to meet a man she's arranged a date with via the Internet. When he arrives, he's not at all what she's expecting. They exchange barbed comments til he finally says "So, you're a dancer?" and she proceeds to answer him in no uncertain terms.
I loved CHANGELING and everything about it, starting with the slideshow of Sarah Seddon Boulet's myth-inspired images. Ms. Mazzini has the three-prong key to making a successful dancework in her pocket: music, movement, and the dancers to deliver the goods. It's in the music that so many choreographers flail these days, but Annmaria went straight to one of the most vibrant and imaginative of today's composers: Gavin Bryars. From there her tale of a sisterhood of exotic shape-shifters takes wing, with the Seddon Boulet fantasies resonating thru her vision and her dancers bringing individual colours to the movement canvas.
That female ensemble works always tend to make us think of Duncan or Graham is inescapable, and why not? They were pioneers. Annmaria's opening passage, as the women cross the space in pairs and trios, leaping like gazelles, instantly draws us in. Elizabeth Bragg, as a woman on the edge of transformation, makes an especially fine effect as the dancework unfolds, and the dancers of the ensemble - Sarah Mulry, Megan Cohl, Rachel Holmes, Samantha Silvers, Sylvana Tapia, Krsti Tornga and Evelyn Wheeler - each bring a distinctive personality to bear. Mercurial, mysterious, evoking the pristine world of the ancient Native American tribes and the timeless rituals of the feminine spirit, CHANGELING is one of those works where, when it ends, you're ready to watch it again.
Dancing to Debussy, Annmaria finally appeared in the flesh in her familiar capacity as a dancer - one whose power and mystique always seems fresh. In the solo CUT OPEN, her black-gloved hands and arms evoked a restless spirit as she moved about the space, seeking solace in the lyricism of the music.
Now let us hope to see Annmaria moving forward; I'd love to see her further explore the world of the Changelings, and to manifest her presence as a dancer in new collaborations (could you imagine her in a duet with Clifton Brown, for example?) There are a lot of possibilities, and with her musical and imaginative sights set high she can clearly develop as a force in the dance world.
The evening was well worth the long trek to the Lower East Side, and any performance where you are handed your Playbill by Audra Bailey is already off to a fine start.