Artistic director Maria Caruso remembers when her company, Bodiography Contemporary Ballet, was just an idea.
While dancing in New York in the early 2000s, she kept hearing the same thing from ballet choreographers in search of artists with uniform tall, lean physiques: You're great, but you're not quite the right body type. But at Dance Theatre of Harlem, things were different.
"I felt like ... my physicality was accepted or even celebrated," she said, even though she was a minority as a Caucasian in the primarily African-American troupe.
These experiences -- and a Bodiography perfume store going out of business at LaGuardia airport -- sparked the company's founding and gave it its name 10 years ago in New York.
Bodiography will celebrate a decade in dance this weekend at Byham Theater, Downtown, with "Red Carpet Roll Out," a compilation of excerpts from past works and the premiere of a new ballet by Ms. Caruso. Guests will have the chance to walk the red carpet at the theater, as well as attend a party at the Renaissance Hotel next door after the performance.
"I developed Bodiography as a way to unify multiple genres of dance under the same roof, as well as multiple bodies," Ms. Caruso said. "I just wanted different body types, different shapes."
Over the years, the group has evolved from having branches in both Pittsburgh and New York to being headquartered in Squirrel Hill at Gene Kelly's former studio. It also has become more than just a company, offering select high school students college prep courses where they can earn credits to apply toward higher education.
"What I'm trying to do is get young, really academically inclined students to get into the collegiate setting much earlier on," said Ms. Caruso, who chairs the performing arts department at La Roche College.
Bodiography's name also has encompassed more meanings as Ms. Caruso's choreographic aesthetic moved from rock ballets with music by Pink Floyd, Red Hot Chili Peppers and other contemporary bands to pieces woven with medical themes that tapped local doctors and patients as research sources and performance participants.
"What began as something that was really about Maria has really transitioned to something that was about the community," she said. "I gain great pleasure from watching other people grow and succeed and find their way."
This evolution and spirit of collaboration will be reflected throughout "Red Carpet Roll Out." The theater lobby will exhibit art, photography and jewelry by Bodiography friends and collaborators, and local band Crossing Boundaries will provide pre-show entertainment.
The program will open with introductions by KDKA-TV's Christine Sorensen and Nicole Barley from WHIRL Magazine on Friday and Saturday, respectively. The first half of the evening will feature Ms. Caruso's earlier works, with the second portion spotlighting medical ballets "Heart: function vs. emotion" and "108 Minutes" with live music by Cello Fury, which developed scores for both pieces. Pittsburgh songwriter Bill Deasy also will perform.
New ballet "Eyes Wide Open" will cap off the evening with movement inspired by photography of Pittsburgh and the four seasons from artists, scientists and doctors Bodiography has partnered with in the past.
The program is "really about expressing gratitude to those who have made Bodiography from an idea and a dream to a reality," Ms. Caruso said.
It's also about looking ahead. Over the next 22 months, the company plans to expand beyond its Squirrel Hill location with an international choreographic institute and new developments on the La Roche campus.
"I feel like this is the beginning of what's to come."
Sara Bauknecht: firstname.lastname@example.org .