BY LIZ PETONIAK
Maria Caruso, founder and artistic director of Bodiography Contemporary Ballet Company, The Bodiography Center for Movement, and the Bodiography Fitness and Strength Training System, and self-proclaimed “artistic philanthropist,” modestly declines to call her three, ever-expanding businesses an “empire.” But, with 13 years under her belt, a newly expanded studio in Squirrel Hill, and a new ballet production about Parkinson’s disease that warranted a phone call from the Michael J. Fox Foundation, we’d say that she’s reached “en pointe élevée.” We asked Caruso to reveal her secrets to success.
WHIRL: How does Bodiography’s unique business model contribute to its success?
MC: I knew that I never wanted to merge the nonprofit and private businesses together, and because I kept them separate, I’ve been able to maintain high standards for education and to develop meaningful partnerships with a variety of arts and fitness organizations, as well as my most prominent relationship with La Roche College (where she is chair of the Performing Arts department and an assistant professor). The model lends itself the opportunity to build a platform for company and contributing artists, who truly believe in my vision, to engage in the many facets of the arts, beyond just a studio life. The uniqueness of the multiple businesses working together in unison facilitated different leadership roles for artists to advance themselves as dancers, choreographers, and educators — and also to find a way to dive into fitness.
WHIRL: What’s the driving force behind your company?
MC: Continuing to find avenues to fulfill the mission and the potential of Bodiography, a company with very strong focuses on health, wellness, and social activism. I look at movement and dance, and I strongly consider how I can utilize the art form to contribute to the community at large. It is a wonderful feeling to provide an audience with an opportunity to contribute economically to the cultural landscape of our region for the art itself, while supporting awareness and research at the same time. I try to wake up every day and ask myself, “How can I make things better?”
WHIRL: What advice can you offer to first-time entrepreneurs or to those looking to expand their businesses?
MC: It’s really important to have absolute commitment to your vision and strategy. You have to be ready and willing to summit the mountain and ready to hike all the way back down, so that you can summit the mountain again. No matter what you do [in your business], you have a responsibility to not only yourself and to your vision, but to the people who support you and who work for you.
WHIRL: What’s on the horizon for Bodiography?
MC: Since the Bodiography Fitness and Strength Training System took off — we have more than 50 certified instructors on the East Coast — people have been requesting DVDs. Now, we’re in pre-production, looking to film the Bodiography advanced class with options for a travel version and a version for kids, beginning in January.