With her sunny spirit and unaffected charm, Joffrey Ballet dancer Amanda Assucena is often cast as innocent characters like Marie or the Sugar Plum Fairy from The Nutcracker. But in Yuri Possokhov's The Miraculous Mandarin, a tabloid-like tale of corruption and cruelty, she played a chillingly manipulative seductress who lures men into the clutches of three street thugs. Dressed in leather shorts, a bra and corset, she was largely without mercy. And from the moment she emerged from the glass box that was her prison-like home—moving with angular, acrobatic choreography that seemed to turn her legs into daggers—it was clear she had nailed this enigmatic siren, even suggesting a hint of vulnerability and loneliness.
The 40-minute marathon of a work not only served as a showcase for Assucena's superb technique, but also revealed her impressive dramatic skills. "Amanda has a natural instinct for music and theater, and a dramatic sense that can convey any story," says Joffrey's artistic director Ashley Wheater. "She has shown herself to be remarkably mature as a person and an artist, and she's fearless in taking on demanding roles and technical challenges."
Add to this the fact that Assucena has a beautifully proportioned body and an innate musicality and it's easy to understand why the 23-year-old has enjoyed such a rapid-fire rise at the Joffrey.