Nichole Canuso Dance Company first premiered their critically-acclaimed work “Being/With:Home” at the 2020 Philadelphia Fringe Festival, and now, the show is making its way outside of the City of Brotherly Love.
The intimate participatory performance, which is described as “exploring separation, connection, and the power of listening,” has been playing at The John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin since Feb. 11, and will end its last performance there on the 24th of this month. The schedule will then be followed by an engagement at the Bates Dance Festival in Lewiston, Maine, from Feb. 25 to March 14.
According to a release, the online structure of “Being/With:Home” is the result of writer/choreographer Nichole Canuso and her Philadelphia-based dance company adapting an existing work, “Being/With”, to the realities of the pandemic environment. “Being/With” was transformed into “Being/With:Home”—the Zoom-based work—and first premiered at the 2020 Philadelphia Fringe Festival to great acclaim. American Theatre Magazine’s Alix Rosenfeld raved that piece was “Complex and rich…With every direction from the audio guide, I felt layers of myself peel back to be shared…and the connection I felt was as potent as it would be had we been in my kitchen dancing together.”
“The original project was designed to be a one-on-one encounter between two strangers at a time, each in separate installations,” said Canuso in a statement. “The project addressed loss, longing and connection. Although the pandemic temporarily halted the construction of the original version, it felt like the themes of the project could still speak directly to this time of uncertainty, social distancing and isolation.”
“Being/With:Home” is built to be experienced from people’s own homes, via Zoom, which worked out wonderfully for the Fringe Festival, which took place in September. With over 100 distinct shows in the past year’s line-up, the festival helped provoke and inspire artists to still participate in the popular cultural event by waiving artists’ registration fees. Many were able to adapt, but some had to rebuild their showcases completely to fit the new digital mold, which sparked a lot of creativity.
For this specific show, when logged into Zoom, audiences will experience a guided interaction with a stranger. The work in this particular show directly addresses solitude, intimacy, and adaptive forms of communication and being together. Embracing the objects and memories that populate their own spaces, the two participants are then invited to build something new: a duet with someone unexpected, which nowadays is quite vital.
Shifting “Being/With’s” script from the site installations to the Zoom platform was both organic and illuminating, according to Canuso.
“Embedded in the project is a reminder that we each carry a wealth of memories and ideas with us, expanding far beyond the present moment,” Canuso added. “As we rehearsed in this new scenario the project transformed, embracing the intimacy and vulnerability of the at-home setting and we quickly found a sister project that we named ‘Being/With:Home,’” she added in her statement.
According to the release, additionally, Canuso and collaborators are exploring the themes of “Being/With: Home” in small group settings via the interactive workshops connecting 12 participants at a time, each in their own home. Facilitated by NCDC artistic director Canuso and Spiral Q co-director Jennifer Turnbull, these workshops explore the themes present in the duet performance (absence/presence; communication over distance; the power of listening) through a series of storytelling activities and movement structures. Each workshop will reflect the interests and experiences of the participants. The Kohler Arts Center has invited local community members to participate in workshops; those interested in attending the Bates Dance Festival workshops can contact the box office.
To participate in a “Being/With:Home” duet at the Kohler Arts Center engagement, visit jmkac.org/beingwith. Reservations, which are free, are limited to 40 (20 duets). To participate in a “Being/With:Home” duet at the Bates Dance Festival engagement, visit batesdancefestival.org/upcoming-events/. Reservations, which are $15, are limited to 80 (40 duets).