Maria Caruso

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Maria Caruso (Born October 12, 1980) is a Pittsburgh native dancer and choreographer, best known as the founder and artistic director of Bodiography Contemporary Ballet. Caruso is currently the chair of the Performing Arts department and director of the Dance department at La Roche College.

Personal life[edit]

Caruso is married to Dr. Alan Russell. Dr. Russell is a Highmark Distinguished Career Professor and the Director of the Disruptive Health Technology Institute at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA. She has five step-children.

Early Training[edit]

Maria Caruso grew up in Rural Valley, PA, outside of Pittsburgh. Caruso's mother and father split when she was young, and dance soon became a therapeutic outlet for her. Luba Takamoto was Maria's first influential teacher. Working with Takamoto instilled the academic value of dance in Caruso. Maria then studied at Sue Hewitt Dance Studio in Indiana, PA, and Hewitt became another of Maria's early mentors. Caruso graduated high school early, at age 16, and continued her education as a BFA student in Florida State University’s dance program. While studying at Florida State, Maria began to mature and no longer fit the traditional ballet body stereotypes. Anjali Austin, one of Maria's professors, became her mentor at FSU and helped her through this period. This inspired Caruso to later open a school that would serve the needs of dancers with non-stereotypical ballet bodies. After graduation from FSU and returning to Pittsburgh, Caruso earned a master's degree in professional leadership from Carlow College.

Performance career[edit]

Caruso's performance career includes work with artists such as Anjali Austin, Ilana Suprun Clyde, Ze’eva Cohen, Lynne Taylor Corbett, Johan Renvall, and James Martin. Upon retirement from dancing with Bodiography in 2015, Caruso traveled the world with her solo work and continues to do so to date. In 2017, she created her first full-length mixed genre solo concert, titled Phoenix Rising, where she worked to incorporate genres of dance that she had never performed, such as hip-hop, lindy hop, and art installation, along with modern, contemporary, and ballet works.


Caruso founded Bodiography in New York City in 2000. The company was relocated to the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Squirrel Hill at the historic site of Gene Kelly’s dance studio in 2001 and is home to a professional contemporary ballet company ballet company and a sister company in Charlotte, North Carolina, fitness and wellness program, and a dance conservatory. Bodiography Contemporary Ballet presents a multi-genre movement vocabulary including modern, jazz, and pedestrian movement solidly supported by the classical ballet technique. The teaching and performing artists of Bodiography engage in a full performance and tour season while maintaining educational outreach engagements at Bodiography Center for Movement, La Roche College, and a variety of public and private schools and arts education institutions in the region. Caruso's creation of the Bodiography® Fitness and Strength Training System is based on a system of compounding exercises with the utilization of multiple props in a mat based class. The program has found great success particularly on the east coast of the United States. With over 80 trained instructors in a variety of fitness and dance environments, the fitness system assists in spreading the company's over arching message of dance being an inclusive art form. Beyond the national reach of the program, the Bodiography® Fitness and Strength Training System classes can be found in many places in the Pittsburgh area. Since 2002, and a long-standing collaboration with Club One Fitness, Caruso and her artists continue to offer an array of fitness classes at both Bodiography and Club One locations. The creation of the Bodiography® Dance Movement Therapy System is based on the extraction of human emotion as a means of creative expression. Through the use of a choreographic algorithm, Caruso's system works to create movement structures and phrases based on the thoughts, feelings, and ideas of individuals with shared experiences. The movement therapy system is currently being utilized in a variety of hospitals, schools, and behavioral heath programs across the US through certified facilitators.

  • Kelly Basil – Assistant director of Bodiography Center for Movement
  • Two student companies under the direction of Kirstie Corso and Amanda Fisher
  • College preparatory program in connection with La Roche College
  • Melissa Tyler - Assistant director of Bodiography Fitness and Wellness

Choreography by Caruso[edit]

  1. 90 Total Works to Date
  2. 23 Total Full-length Ballets
  3. 4 Full-length Ballets with Original Scores
  4. 2 Full-length Theater Installations with Original Scores
  5. 17 Full-length Ballets without Original Scores
  6. 30 Concert Works
  7. 3 Concert Work with Original Score
  8. 10 Solo Works
  9. 15 Commissions
  10. 9 Collegiate Works
  • My Mozart (2017)
  • Connectivity Suite (2017)
  • Kindred Pulse (2017)
  • Lullaby (2017)
  • Justice and Joanne (2017)
  • Walkways (2017)
  • I Am Now (2017)
  • Pathways (2017)
  • Tempered (2017)
  • Meditation of Killer Heels (2016)
  • Change (2016)
  • The Lending Heart (2016)
  • Uncharted Grace (2016)
  • Parabola (2016)
  • Jointly Driven (2015)
  • My Journey (2015)
  • Light of Love (2015)
  • Messiah (2015)
  • Charlotte Dance Festival - Within the Confines (2015)
  • Curious Spirals (2015)
  • I Will Be Earth (2015)
  • Snowflakes in the Cemetery (2015)
  • Light of Love (2015)
  • Life Tides (2015)
  • Laudate (2015)
  • Follow the Light (2015)
  • Fauré Requiem (2014)
  • Ave Maria (2014)
  • Left Leg, Right Brain (The Frank Ferraro Story) (2014)
  • Lux Aeterna (2013)
  • Bonsoir (2013)
  • Led by Light (2013)
  • Whispers of Light (2013)
  • Day Awakening (2013)
  • From Above (2013)
  • Parlour (2012)
  • Hallelujah (2012)
  • Our Notebook (2012)
  • 5 Hebrew Love Songs (2012)
  • Pieces of My Puzzle (2012)
  • From Me To You (2012)
  • Carmina Burana (2012)
  • Untitled (2012)
  • Fractured and Rebuilt (2012)
  • Somebody (2012)
  • Eyes Off You (2012)
  • Eyes Wide Open (2012)
  • Sectional Sentiments (2011)
  • Wet (2011)
  • 108 Minutes (2011)
  • Bodi (2011)
  • Heart (Function vs. Emotion) (2010)
  • Pas de Deux (2010)
  • No More Bad Hair Days (2009)
  • Intimate Liaisons (2009)
  • The String (2009)
  • Something About Nothing (2009)
  • Ognissanti Madonna (2008)
  • At My Cliff (2008)
  • Journey (2008)
  • Bound (2008)
  • Solace (2008 Restaged – Original 2005)
  • Mentality Toiled Empathy (2007)
  • Kaleidoscope (2007)
  • Timeless (2006)
  • The Recital (2006)
  • Reflections (2006)
  • Love Lines (2005)
  • 80's Rock (2004)
  • Tied and Bound (2004)
  • Living Successions (2003)
  • Millennium Confusion (2002)
  • Given (2002)
  • Smoke (2002)
  • 18 Months (2002)
  • Envisage (2002)
  • Ascension (2001)
  • Relativity (2001)
  • Transit Euphony (2000)


  • Tedx Talk (2016)


Bodiography Dance Movement Therapy System: The Healing Power of Dance and Movement for EveryBODY (2013) The profound results of Caruso's research, supported by Highmark Blue Cross/Blue Shield in 2014, catapulted the success of the Dance Movement Therapy program and provided a platform for training more dance movement therapy facilitators in the Pittsburgh region and beyond.


  • Young Pittsburgher to Watch (2009)
  • “America Inspired” Contest - Top 25 finalist (2011)
  • Real Wedding: Maria Caruso + Alan Russell - Whirl Magazine (2015)
  • 2016 Fast Tracker - Pittsburgh Business Times (2016)
  • Genius of Choreography - The Future Health Technology Summit (2016)
  • Squirrel Hill Urban Coalition's Squirrel Hill Treasure (2017)



External links[edit]