Go Deeper Fringe at 20 Profile: Nichole Canuso

Fringe at 20 Profile: Nichole Canuso

Posted September 9th, 2016
Above photo:  Nichole Canuso and Dito Van Reigersberg in TAKES (photo by Lars Jan)



Nichole Canuso and Scott McPheeters in The Garden (photo by Peggy Woolsey)

Name: Nichole Canuso

Type of Artist: Choreographer/Performer

Companies: Headlong, Moxie, Pig Iron, Nichole Canuso Dance Company

List of Fringe shows I’ve participated in:

As Choreographer/Performer:
1997 – Bored on a Sunday
1998 – Enter Night
1999 – Nichole Canuso’s Dance Shorts
2000 – InnerState Thirteen
2005 – We Spar Down the Lane
2006 – Fail Better
2007 – Wandering Alice (in progress)
2008 – Wandering Alice
2010 – TAKES
2011 – As the Eyes of the Seahorse
2012 – Return Return Departure
2013 – The Garden
2016 – Pandæmonium

As co-artistic director of Moxie Dance Collective (with Christy Lee, Heather Murphy, Leah Yeager, Peter D’Orsaneo):
2001, 2002, 2003 – We created group shows of short works. We thought of them as albums, a curated set of overlapping ideas.

As a co-host of The Rockies, Philadelphia’s dance awards:
2004 – with co-hosts Emmanuel Delpech and Lee Etzold we performed as our characters in Pig Iron’s FLOP (Snow, Millie and Fleur Savage)


Nichole Canuso and Michael Kiley in As the Eyes of the Seahorse (photo by Matt Saunders)

As a performer/company member of Headlong:
1997 – Pop Songs
1998 – St*r W*rs and other stories
2000 – Pusher
2002 – Britany’s Inferno
2006 – Cell
2007 – Explanatorium
2009 – more

Additional performances:
1997 and 1998 – performer/company member with Karen Bamonte Dance works
1999 – David Gammon’s No More Masterpieces.
1997 – 2003 – the cabarets!!! Deb Block would curate those and I would always agree to perform short numbers in the late night cabaret series. Super fun.

Fringe show I’m participating in for 2016Pandæmonium – Choreographer/Performer, Working in collaboration with Lars Jan and Geoff Sobelle

First Fringe I attended: 1997 – The highlight was biking around from venue to venue to perform and see shows. I had the feeling that the entire Philadelphia performance community was activated simultaneously in some way or another by the festival.  I was fresh out of college and it was incredibly exciting.  (I also performed that year in a couple shows, including a solo I’d made for myself)


Christy Lee, Nichole Canuso, Heather Murphy, and Amy Smith in St*r W*rs and other stories (photo by Jim Wasserman)

First Fringe I participated in: 1997 – I performed in the first fringe festival. I made a comedic dance/theater solo called “Bored on a Sunday.” I don’t know if the show had a name. I was on a mixed bill with Asimina Cremos and Grace Mi He Lee. I was a recent college graduate, performing alongside two incredible female performance artists that I admired. It was fantastic. I remember meeting Andy Bresnan when he came to the show, which led to an invitation to perform in his Big Mess cabarets.

I was dancing with Headlong and they staged a series of dances to pop songs that year. I danced to a suite of dances to Violent Femmes songs, and then floated around on roller skates while Amy, Andrew, and David performed “Lost in Love”.

The Fringiest show, venue, action, or moment I ever experiencedPUSHER, by Headlong Dance Theater. I was a company member at the time. It was a dance for one person at a time in an undisclosed location.  The audience had to figure out how to purchase the dance by getting the info from a past participant. The transaction mimicked a drug sale with a dispatcher leading them to an unlit plot of grass under the bridge and leaving them there on a swivel chair. The 5 minute dance would emerge around them… and then recede. Developing and performing this performance was thrilling, intimate, scary and beautiful.  It transformed my thinking about the relationship between performer and audience.


24 Hour Bald Soprano, by Brat Productions. An Ionesco Play performed every hour, on the hour for 24 hours, by the same increasingly sleep deprived cast… who continually changed roles. This took place in the early years of the fringe when most events occurred in old city within a 12 block radius.

The Philadelphia Live Arts Festival - timelapse sequence of long exposures - blur of light as the dancers circle the audience in Nichole Canuso's Wandering Alice at Christ Church Photo must be credited to "Jacques-Jean Tiziou /" adjacent to the image. Online credits should link to Photo may only be used as permitted by the photographer.

Timelapse sequence of long exposures – blur of light as the dancers circle the audience Wandering Alice (photo by JJ Tiziou)

A Fringe show that influenced me as an artistPusher (2000)… and then Cell (2006). Both are Headlong projects that I worked on as creator/performer.  They were born of the evolving spirit and support of the Fringe in those years. Cell took the ideas at the heart of the 10 minute Pusher project and exploded them into a one hour experience for one person at a time… basically handing each participant the goggles to see their everyday surroundings in a completely new way.

I’ve never recovered from those creation/performance experiences in a way… in the best possible way. The potential of performance was unlocked for me and continues to float into new curiosity-filled directions. In 2007 I created Wandering Alice with Suli Holum and have since been searching for new ways to think about what it means to be witness, participant, maker.

Example of artists I have met or was exposed to in the Fringe who I went on to collaborate with: So many! The most important would be Michael Kiley, who became my collaborator and husband.  We first met in the fringe of ’99. We’ve since collaborated on 6 large scale productions. Our son is 11 years old.