After 14 years as Bodiography Contemporary Ballet's most prominent and compelling dancer, Maria Caruso is retiring as a performer with her company. She will take her final bows in the Bodiography program My Journey, Feb. 20 and 21, at the Byham Theater.
A fixture on the Pittsburgh dance scene, Caruso will carry on as director/choreographer of the company and school she founded in 2000, which celebrates dancers with non-stereotypical ballet bodies.
"My passion for dancing is different now," says Caruso, 34. "Dance is at the core of who I am. I am just focusing that in other areas outside of me performing."
Her decision to stop performing with Bodiography came after an artistic sabbatical in which, she says, she reassessed her career goals and goals for Bodiography. Always one to have her hand in a number of projects, Caruso — who recently married — says she will devote her attentions to higher education as chair of the Performing Arts Department at La Roche College, and to the movement-therapy system she developed. She'll still work to advance Bodiography's role in serving the Pittsburgh community through dance. And she plans to start a new area arts magazine.
My Journey represents not just a farewell, but also a return to Caruso and company's roots in rock ballet. She says that's part of Bodiography's new programming balance that will include follow-ups to her signature "medical" ballets — like 2011's Heart (Function vs Emotion) and last year's Left Leg, Right Brain — and works by other choreographers.
My Journey includes three new works. It opens with Caruso's eight-minute contemporary ballet pas de deux "Light by Love," set to music by Philip Glass, performed live by pianist/composer Theo Teris. Then an all-female cast on pointe takes the stage for Caruso's latest rock ballet, Follow the Light. The 50-minute classically based ballet is a non-narrative movement tapestry reacting to Coldplay's music. It is set to songs including hits "Yellow," "Clocks" and "Viva la Vida."
Caruso's 35-minute solo "My Journey (Reflections, Perceptions, and Misconceptions)" rounds out the program. Danced to music from British trio London Grammar's 2013 debut album, If You Wait, the solo looks at Caruso's life and career through monologue and dance, as she revisits past works and career milestones.
"I'm dancing and verbalizing my memoirs," says Caruso.