Nichole Canuso on Taking Risks

Nichole Canuso on Taking Risks

Nichole Canuso has always danced. Growing up, other extracurricular activities would come and go, but dance, she said, “was a through line.” Now, as artistic director of her Philadelphia-based non-profit, Nichole Canuso Dance Company (NCDC), she doesn’t just dance, but fundraises, secures venues, and choreographs as well, creating pieces that are part theater, part improv, and part interactive light and sound show. Of course, there's collaboration with other artists, but it’s nevertheless a lot to manage, especially when working in a painfully topsy-turvy funding climate. When she talks about dance (“without our bodies, what are we?”), you begin to understand the requisite passion necessary to take on a world rife with risk, from financial and physical to artistic and emotional. Luckily, Canuso's training in dance, theater, and physical comedy—including a stint studying clown comedy in Paris (think Jacques Lecoq)—fortified her for a life of embracing creative risk and failure. From Fail Better (2006), a piece about the flux of young motherhood, to CoPresence, her upcoming multidisciplinary project which examines modern day solitude, she is always pushing boundaries and inventing new ways to tell a story or share an experience, even if it runs a high risk of disaster. For example, in the NEA-supported piece, The Garden (2013), Canuso allowed for just six audience members, who followed pre-recorded cues issued through headphones, all but erasing the line between audience and performer. As she mentioned in our interview, The Garden was a logistical and economical nightmare. Six audience members meant no ticket income. Also, what if the piece didn’t connect with the audience? What if there was a sound glitch and the participants become lost? But Canuso forged ahead and mounted the piece three times and plans to remount it in the future. The takeaway? Make the art no matter what the cost.