Choreographer Maria Caruso builds a new work around a simple sofa. | Dance | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Choreographer Maria Caruso builds a new work around a simple sofa.

Sectional Sentiments moves Caruso from contemporary ballet to a dance-theater feel.

Photo courtesy of Eric Rosé.

Consider the humble sofa. We have courted one another on loveseats, bared our souls on the shrink's sofa and traded our dignity for the chance at fame and fortune on the casting couch. More than just a piece of furniture, the sofa is a gathering place for ideas, dreams, social interaction and human bonding. 

Friday at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater, the sofa takes center stage in choreographer Maria Caurso's Sectional Sentiments. The 60-minute, intermissionless dance-theater work follows a group of party-goers for an evening, eavesdropping on their conversations and interactions on and around a sectional sofa.

Set to music by Pittsburgh native Alexa Raquel Casciato, the relationship-based work touches on themes from drunk driving to infidelity and seduction. Caruso says the music follows the arc of Casciato's album, Gamboge, from which it is taken.

Casciato (a.k.a. "Little Warrior") is a Chatham University grad who now lives in Oregon. With titles like "Mind Your Own Mind" and "Together We Can Combat Nightmares," she at times brings a sense of quirkiness to her music. But she can also knock you back emotionally with a heart-grabber like "Earth to Heaven." The singer-songwriter will perform several selections from the album live for Sectional Sentiments.   

This work is a departure for Caruso, who is primarily known for her contemporary and pointe-shoe-driven ballets for her company, Bodiography. Although Sectional Sentiments uses several of Bodiography's dancers, Caruso emphasizes that the show is an independent project. The work's more explicit use of adult themes and its pedestrian movement style are distinct from anything she says she might produce for Bodiography. Caruso sees the piece as more of a "theater installation" using "movement dialogue" set to music, rather than a traditional dance work.

"I am trying to capture what it would be like to watch a film in the form of a movement installation," says Caruso. "I want the audience to feel like they are watching a really impactful film."

The show continues the Celebrate East Liberty Summer Series at the Kelly-Strayhorn. Caruso got a week in the theater to workshop the piece. Dancegoers and fans of the choreographer may want to get off their own sofas to watch.


Maria Caruso presents SECTIONAL SENTIMENTS 8 p.m. Fri., Aug. 19. Kelly-Strayhorn Theater, 5941 Penn Ave., East Liberty. Pay what you can ($5-20 suggested). 412-363-3000 or

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