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Events Pandæmonium


Nichole Canuso Dance Company / Early Morning Opera

Sept 14–18

Runtime TBA

$15 – $29


DescriptionAbout the ArtistsInterviewsFurther Reading


Somewhere between everyday experience and a fever dream, to the left of the Mojave Desert, under burnt-out telephone lines, empty swimming pools and unfinished suburban developments is a place called Pandæmonium.

This cinematic dance-theater concert explores the fear and enticement embedded in the American desert landscape, taking on questions of separation and connection in today’s world. Choreographer Nichole Canuso and physical theater performer Geoff Sobelle perform on opposite sides of the stage; yet they come together cinematically on an abandoned movie screen built into the theater. A sweeping musical score played live and an interactive video design conjure an American landscape that endlessly dissolves into the sunset.

Co-Creators and Performers Nichole Canuso, Geoff Sobelle Director Lars Jan Video and Interactive Software Design Pablo N. MolinaAssistant Video Designer Jesse Garrison Live Music Created and Performed by Xander Duell Lighting Mike Inwood Costumes Olivera Gajic Set Philipp Schaerer Props Alicia Crosby Technical Director Carl Whipple Stage Manager Elaina Di Monaco Video Assistant Jesse Garrison

$29 general / $20.30 member

$15 student + 25-and-under



*Audio Description available at the Sept 18, 3pm performance. Service provided by Art-Reach.


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The development of Pandæmonium is made possible in part by funding from the William Penn Foundation, The National Endowment for the Arts, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, PECO, and commissioning partners The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at University of Maryland and

Festival Co-Producers
Christie Hartwell
Bill and Joyce Kunkle
Nancy Lanham
Ed and Anne Wagner

About Nichole Canuso Dance Company

Nichole Canuso Dance Company (NCDC) creates performance experiences that embrace the complexity and absurdity of humanity. Projects sit at the crossroads of movement, visual art, and theater, bringing dance out of conventional spaces to engage audiences in adventurous ways. Past Fringe shows include The Garden (2013) an immersive experience for six audience members at a time led via headset, As the Eyes of the Seahorse (2011)collaboration with six piece band The Mural and The Mint, TAKES(2010) a cinematic sculpture viewable from multiple perspectives, and Wandering Alice (2008) a roaming performance that occupied the halls and stairways of Christ Church Neighborhood House.  

In addition to being artistic director of NCDC, Canuso has been an active member of the Philadelphia performance community since 1997.  She was a company member of Headlong Dance Theater for twelve years, has performed with Pig Iron Theater Company, and co-founded Moxie Dance Collective. Canuso also has a background in physical theater and clowning, and worked with physical theater master Bill Irwin as a creator/performer in The Happiness Lecture. She is currently on faculty at the Pig Iron School for Advanced Performance Training (APT), and Headlong Performance Institute (HPI), and has been commissioned by Bryn Mawr College, American Philosophical Society Museum, Axis Dance Company, Temple University, among others.

Interview with Nichole Canuso

FringeArts: What does the title Pandæmonium represent for you?CoPresenceMojave-7232

Nichole Canuso: Pandæmonium comes from John Milton’s Paradise Lost and reflects the image of a house built on a lake of fire. It also reflects that terrible moment when you wake up on the other side of a rupture that you cannot repair, a break from reality that you cannot return to: for an individual, a nation or an ecosystem.

For a long time we were working under the title CoPresence which refers to the original starting point: two bodies separated in physical space, but entwined in a virtual/cinematic duet onscreen. This set-up and the question of what “together” and “alone” really mean are still at the core of the performance, but the project has expanded to include additional strands of research that relate to the new title: Pandæmonium. This research is based in the desert landscape and contemporary relics such as abandoned drive-in movie screens, empty swimming pools and tract housing developments that were never completed.

FringeArts: What are the creative roles?

Nichole Canuso: My role includes performer, choreographer, producer. The project is very collaborative, with responsibilities and creative input spilling across the assigned roles within the group of creators: Lars Jan, Geoff Sobelle, Pablo Molina, Xander Duell, Olivera Gajic, Alicia Crosby, Mike Inwood.IMG_7185 (1)

There are two main performers, myself and Geoff, and for a majority of the performance we are physically apart, navigating separately designed spaces on stage, while our actions are projected simultaneously via live feed to create a comprehensive duet on screen. The on-screen structure is an 18 foot drive-in movie screen. The background is the desert landscape, designed by conceptual architect Philipp Schaerer. There is a third person, a musician, present throughout. He is alternating between scoring the events live and sonically driving the action.

FringeArts: Can you discuss the basic starting point for Pandæmonium and how the show has evolved?

Nichole Canuso: Planning began in 2012. We started with the desire to connect two solos happening on different continents via a live feed overlay. In our first workshop we set up those two solos on opposite sides of a single rehearsal room to test the technology. We found this set-up very moving (two live solos separated in space that fit together as a comprehensive duet on screen) and began moving forward with that as the centerpiece of the project.

The visual setup evoked images of searching, feeling incomplete or lost, unable to communicate directly and we ended up in the territory of 50s–60s American households, model homes, suppressed emotions, inebriation, the desire for revolution. Which eventually led us to Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point.

DSC_5667f&cFringeArts: Which led to the desert . . .

Nichole Canuso: The desert landscape was rich for us, it housed many of the research strands we had already been working with and pointed toward new ones. The desert as a place for spiritual enlightenment, or exile and expulsion, a place of continual attempts to conquer or transform the landscape, a place of theft and brutality but also beauty, and a home to modern relics—abandoned drive-in movie screens, empty swimming pools and tract housing developments that were never completed. Recently Richard Misrach’s book of desert photographs has become an important source of inspiration for us.

Three of us took a camping trip to the Mojave Desert as a research experiment last year. A larger group of us are heading to the desert this coming July to build a drive-in movie screen, stage a version of the choreography and collect footage for the live performance. The preparation and execution of these expeditions will no doubt inform the content as much as the eventual footage will.


Further Reading


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