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Bodiography Center for Movement’s Spring Concert Stunned with Student-Driven Choreography 

By JESSICA NEU

Following a beautiful opening number performed en pointe, Maria Caruso stepped on stage to introduce Bodiography’s student spring performance. Immediately, you knew that you were about to witness not just dancing but a chosen family coming together to share their love of the arts. Caruso’s welcoming warmth resonated from the stage as she explained her philosophy for Bodiography- that this company represents dance for everybody and every BODY. In an age where body image and body shaming can still be incredibly toxic and damaging, especially to young people, this approach is both refreshing and so essential. 

Caruso is the chair of the performing arts department at La Roche University. A few of the high school students from Bodiography received college credit to take dance composition one and two classes to learn how to construct both a solo and group piece in addition to studying specific choreographers. These students, along with the Bodiography company, conceptualized, choreographed, costumed, and cleaned each number in the spring showcase featuring the dancers from the Level 4-College Preparatory program. 

After Caruso’s introduction, dancers again took the stage to breeze through the first act of dances. From modern ballet pieces to contemporary, hip hop, musical theater, and even a delightfully fun up-tempo jazz number, each piece was a masterclass in technique with perfect turnouts, pointed feet that extended through the tips of each dancer’s toes, and energy that radiated through their fingertips. These poised and well-trained dancers handled quick changes like professionals. The simple yet beautiful costumes allowed audiences to focus on each dancer’s movement quality. This comfortable, approachable, rhetorical dance style permitted audiences to get lost in the moment and become one with the piece. 

Each student choreographer stepped on to introduce their piece. Poised and confident, they discussed their journeys behind the dance’s concept and choreography. Sophia Monaco introduced her piece entitled “Luna.” In a speech wise, beyond her years, Monaco describes her efforts to bring to the stage a number that represents one’s need for stability and being able to navigate that need in a world that is in constant motion. “Luna” expresses the need to embrace the good in our lives while being able to sit with discomfort or turmoil. Monaco’s choreography allowed the dancers to move with level changes – leaps, deep plies, and floor work – that allowed each dancer to be grounded in their core and express themselves through thoughtful and powerful movement. Stylistically, Monaco beautifully captured both the stillness and the chaos of the everyday. 

Following Monaco’s number, seventeen-year-old Evelyn Aldrich introduced her piece, “Phantom and Phillia,” as a representation of the dichotomy of feeling haunted or troubled by elements in your life but also seeking the desire to be loved. Her contemporary piece was a fusion of multiple styles of dance and represented the turmoil that we feel when we are lonely, but we also know that we have a safety net of friends and family to surround us. 

The company-choreographed pieces were pristinely integrated with student-choreographed pieces. The contemporary duet “Haze,” featuring Mia Ciuffoletti and Carola Crisanti, was undoubtedly a standout performance of the evening. The two dancers moved so intuitively together that I got lost in the performance. I almost forgot that I was watching two high schoolers dancing on stage as they were perfectly paired in this stunning contemporary piece. 

Ciuffoletti also showcased her ingenuity as a choreographer. Her piece represented the story of man’s fall around the time of Adam and Eve, as depicted in the Bible. Ciuffoletti daringly incorporated oversized T-shirts into her routine as a prop. Still, the risk paid off, as the dancers manipulating the shirts added depth and intensity to the artistically contemporary piece. 

The final student-choreographed piece, “Subjugate,” highlights the ongoing stressors that teens face daily. They are forced to balance academics, a social life, dance classes, and mental health, among other matters. These matters are reconciled through fluid bodily movement and intricate choreography, where dancers move in both isolation and unity. 

It is fitting that these students settled on such challenging and mature topics for their pieces. I had the pleasure of speaking with Caruso and company member Isaac Ray after the show, and they introduced me to the student choreographers. Each dancer was poised and articulate beyond her years, as it was clear that Caruso is not just teaching technique; she is helping to raise the next generation of good humans. 

These dancers had the courage and support to bring their real-life experiences to the stage and to allow space for themselves and their peers to emote through dance. Their passion was palpable, and their gratitude was undeniable. This inclusive space showcased some of the brightest and best young talent in Pittsburgh dance and also in Pittsburgh humanitarianism. 

Bodiography Center for Movement’s Spring Concert was performed June 14 & 15, 2024 at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater. For details on future concerts visit: