New York City
Mariana Sadovska amidst mushrooms–toadstools, moist fungi with umbrella-shaped caps.
Sadovska, 29, is a Ukrainian singer who’s spending a year in New York as artist-in-residence at the East Village’s Yara Arts Group, and when she blasts into Ave. A’s alt.coffee on a torpid afternoon, it’s like someone’s just dropped a ruby into a crate of onions. Alt.coffee on a weekday around noon is serious abject hipster territory, I mean low, as in low-energy, as in dispirited. Unshaven dudes in shower sandals peck at laptops, scowl into space, pinch gummy cigarettes between weedy fingers–shuffle back, stooping and irascible, to the john. The walls sweat. The upholstery teems with yeasts and spores. Meanwhile, here’s gorgeous brown-haired Sadovska, this trilling Slavic dramatic songbird confetti-bomb explosion in heels and a green dress who glows, shines, pouts, coos, purrs, vibrates, hums–in all ways busts up the humid stupor. Hipsters ogle. A ponce slides up, asks her for her phone number in Russian, gets smacked right back. (She’s been in the place for all of 37 seconds.) Alt.coffee: arguably the most unlikely place on the planet in which to meet a Slavic diva. Cracks in the plaster smear and drip with lymph and pus.
The stateside history of Mariana Sadovska: "Last year I was here for private reason, visiting my mama." My mahhh-ma. "In Ohio." Singsong and melancholy and intensely charming: Eeen O-hiiii-o.
Um, did you say your mother lives in Ohio?
"She moved eight years ago for political–actually–reason. She used to be very engaged in this problem of religion. Orthodox, Cahhtho-leek–it was a time when it was–" Here her voice becomes conspiratorial and she leans over the nasty table marooned in the vile floor. "–dahhngerous actions..."
So where exactly in Ohio?
"In Cleveland," she says, soulfulness softening her huge eyes.
Eeen Cleeeve-lahnd. Sadovska makes that Rust Belt ruin sound as enchanting as Krakow or Prague. Slavic cooing; the woman’s sure got a musical voice. It moans and quavers like a lark through lovely octaves.
Okay, why Cleveland?
"That was, you know, occasion, and actually it was big mistake, and now it’s difficult to change."
Why a mistake?
"It’s just, like, because that’s in Ohio! That’s pro-veen-shal! And what’s going on there? Notheeng! What kind of people are there? Oh my God. You know, so."
Makes a little poofing sound with her lips, looses a delicate hand to flutter through stale air.
"Mmmmmmmmmm..." A lovely and slightly nasal purr issues from deep within her. And how long did Sadovska inhabit the Jewel City of the Cuyahoga? She screws up her face, a child in thought.
"Like, one mont’? Eet’s pretty boring. I mean, you have nice museum there. You cannot walk on the street there! You cannot meet people! There is no concert there! There is nothing going on, so eet’s pretty boring. Eet’s pretty pro-veen-shal a place."
Hands fly and fall (and stick? they might even stick) to the table. Singer as enchanting perpetual motion machine: hands play about the chopstick shoved through the baroque mass of her brown hair. They form little fists and bop against each other in feisty little battles. "I spent last 10 years in small veellage. In small veellage close to the natura! Very concentrated in work–every day you have een-cred-ible luxury of European thee-ah-ter, which is supported. So we have money to develop ar-tees-tic ideas. So that’s big difference. I feel like here is this concentrated everything from the world! You can say, I want to find this–and you will find it in New York... Every night you can find so many beautiful theengs."
"When I came here, first two months, I was incredibly fascinated and happy. Then after, when I start to work–I never worked like that! So I was like–" Makes fist of right hand, socks herself in the side of head, morphs face into screwball expression– "So, mmmmmm, then it was just really like crisis time! Because you have no time! You have no time to read! You have no time to meet your people, because always you speak to answering machine–always in New York! ...So I passed through kind of depression. No! Not depression, but very sad and very lost period, you know, like voo!"
Ah, but life in New York can, in fact, improve.
"I met people which immediately become your friends. I met a lot of craaay-zy people, byooo-teeful people, and that’s New York. I think this creates atmosphere of New York! All these people here! I don’t think it’s city for people who want to get money, only, or for people who are weak. I think only if you are strong enough or if you are crazy enough–or talented enough–you can manage in New York." She performs an excruciatingly European shrug of the shoulders. "That’s my feeling, I don’t know."
It’s appropriate to point out here that Sadovska’s indeed managing in New York. The New York Times enthused last March about her cabaret act, in which she performs rural Ukrainian songs and accompanies herself on her harmonium, calling it "nearly reckless but oddly perfect," and gushing, "...Ms. Sadovska’s delivery was as wired, forthright and sexual as a rock star’s–Polly Jean Harvey, perhaps. She could have been singing the same material in front of a rock trio."
Sadovska on Brooklyn, her temporary home:
"And then you have Greenpoint, and Williamsburg, it’s real Poland... It’s real, not touristic, Poland how it eeez. So then it is Greenpoint, then it is Bedford Ave., you know. These funky people, artists, small galleries, small cafes like that, which I really love. Then there is this Haseeedic area, and I’m exactly in between! And there are, near, Puerto Rican people! It’s fascinating, very alive place, and this meexture. Five minute there, voo! Five minute there–like, totally different world!"
Purses her mouth, manages to look at once impish and soulful, her brown mane tumbling around her shoulders.
"I miss to be back to Europe," she coos. "I miss to be back to that more calm life."
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