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BWW Review: ANAÏS, A DANCE OPERA by Mixed eMotion Theatrix In Association With Diana Raab

BWW Review: ANAÏS, A DANCE OPERA  by Mixed eMotion Theatrix In Association With Diana RaabAnaïs: A Dance Opera is a multimedia collaberation featuring the life story of writer, intellectual, and provocateur, Anaïs Nin. Created by Janet Rosten and Cindy Shapiro, Anaïs uses a variety storytelling devices, including both a dance and vocal narrative, as well as a projected background of surreal and abstract visual accompaniment for each piece. A contemporary dance odyssey, Anaïs is an enthusiastic biography that depicts Nin's sexual awakening, her rise to fame as a writer, and her posthumous defamation as a sexual deviant. There's a lot of excellent work in this production, and it's clear the project has a team of committed artists at the helm.

Nin's life was defined by physical and intellectual expression, making her an excellent subject for a dance biography. Rosten's choreography is expressive and fresh, and manifests Nin's sexual curiosity with strength and sensuality. Vocalist Holly Sedillos is featured as Nin's "eternal" personality, who narrates Nin's story through a series of original songs by Shapiro, in interaction with the dancers. The projected backdrops and moving backgrounds (by designer Joe LaRue) give the production a modern, surreal quality, though the constant barrage of media is sometimes over-stimulating, especially when paired with the surtitles of the narrator's vocals. Each individual element of Anaïs had a deeply explored creative life, making the production an impressive, multi-faceted collaboration--but one that lacked focus. Between the dance narrative, the vocal narrative, the projected video narrative, and the lyric projection, Anaïs was challenging to fully metabolize. It's all done well--it's just all done at once, and with equal emphasis.

BWW Review: ANAÏS, A DANCE OPERA  by Mixed eMotion Theatrix In Association With Diana Raab

Along a similar line of contemplation, the biographical elements of Anaïs's story lack directional momentum. Nin's incredible life was brimming with unique experiences: She was an immigrant from Spain who spent her formative years in New York City in the 20s; in the 30s, Nin and her husband moved to Paris, where she adopted the intellectual preoccupations of the "café" culture of writers and artists. Her torrid affair with writer Henry Miller (and Henry Miller's wife, June) influenced Nin's desire to pursue an independent lifestyle in love and in art, despite social models dictating a more restrictive manner of womanly propriety. Nin moved back to New York during the war years, and began experimenting with psychotherapy and a permissive sexual identity. She wrote and published surrealist erotica. Though she never aligned herself overtly with the feminist movement, the women's liberation movement was inspired by Nin's style of living, making her an in-demand public speaker on the University circuit. She lived the twilight of her life with a husband on each coast. Though biographer Deirdre Blair lambasted Nin's sexual proclivities in her 1996 biography, Nin remains a popular figure of the counter-culture literati. The problem with this rich of a history is that comprehensive coverage is difficult to sculpt into a clean storyline. Anaïs: A Dance Opera mostly focuses on feminist-adopted themes, though the creators do a valiant job of trying to include as many scintillating story elements as possible--which, at times, overburdened the narrative. Again, the critique is not that material is poor--but that the abundance of material scatters and dilutes the points of focus.

BWW Review: ANAÏS, A DANCE OPERA  by Mixed eMotion Theatrix In Association With Diana RaabDancer Kate Colman portrays Nin as vibrant, yet deeply vulnerable, and passionate and curious rather than vampy, for a soft, relatable protagonist. This characterization supports the piece's reverence for a woman who lived despite convention, and inspired women within her scope of influence to seek a similar level of satisfaction in a "man's" world--a necessary viewpoint in a culture still struggling for gender equality. The cast also included Michael Quiett, Ben Bigler, Mathew D'Amico, Jacqueline Hinton, and Denise Woods. Anaïs: A Dance Opera is a fascinating (albeit hectic) artistic tribute to Nin's legacy of unbridled creativity.

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From This Author Maggie Yates