Nichole Canuso is drawn to what people choose to embrace and what they try to erase from their memories, especially as relates to spaces. In her new solo dance performance (at FringeArts May 2 through May 4), Midway Avenue, she explores what happens when “the house you grew up in squeezes into your current home, bending walls, twinning rooms, tilting windows.” In the performance, she constructs and transforms her own memories of growing up in 1980s Philadelphia while through her dance she builds—and takes apart—her current house on stage. We caught up with Nichole to find out some background to the show, as well as what it’s like to create a solo work.
FringeArts: How did you come up with the title Midway Avenue?
Nichole Canuso: Midway Avenue is the name of the street I grew up on. This title came towards the end of the process, once I knew the subject matter of the dance was centering around this house I lived in as a child.
FringeArts: Can you talk about what Midway Ave is exploring and how it came about?
Nichole Canuso: This dance grew out of a choreographic research project that I instigated a few years ago that focused on the integration and exploration of verbal meaning and physical logic. The main thrust of the project was, and still is, an investigation of the intersections of words and movement in performance. I wanted to give myself the space to use my voice, my writing, and my body in range of ways—to challenge myself to arrange, strip down, and layer meaning in playful and meticulous ways.
As the process evolved my own stories and my own body became the source material and the platform for these formal investigations. Images and stories from my childhood home kept coming up in improvisations and experiments. What began as a formal exploration of language and body eventually became a personal excavation of memory, architecture, and the body. The solo veered in this direction for a few reasons. For one, solos are inherently personal, there is something vulnerable about standing alone. Second is timing: my son is currently the age that I was when a lot of my most potent childhood memories formed.
FringeArts: What’s it like to create a solo work? What appeals to about solo work from an artistic standpoint? And why now was the right time to create it?
Nichole Canuso: When I was a kid I spent a good amount of time alone. And I loved it. As an adult my life is filled with collaboration, discussion, parenting, and negotiation. I love this too. In recent years I’ve been sculpting large installations with incredible groups of collaborators [Check out Nichole's work in this area: Wandering Alice, TAKES, The Garden]. I’m also a mother, so for years time alone meant time writing at a computer, or sleeping.
But some piece of me was ready to work alone for a bit. To return to a solitary place. In the beginning being alone in the studio felt unfamiliar, lonely, sometimes haunting. I realized I hadn’t really been alone in a studio for substantial chunks of time since before I’d become a mother, seven years prior.
But with this project, being alone with my body was the essential starting point. This time alone was not always “pleasant” and not always immediately “productive.” Spending long periods alone in the studio felt odd, like reconnecting with an old friend. Or maybe more like a frustrated grandmother who quips, “Why haven’t you visited?!” And like reconnecting with loved ones or taking a tour of an old house, you see things with a new perspective, while simultaneously experiencing a flood of memories. These sensations seeped into the content.
These sensations became the foundation for this new solo. A lot of personal material was creeping into the process and although I wasn’t quite sure I wanted to use it as the subject for a work that I would share with the public, from that foundation I found portals into new ways of working. And eventually I found the courage to dig around and to allow myself to use my own stories as a frame for something larger than myself. (more…)