Joseph Caruana is a Co-Founder and Co-Director for Elements Contemporary Ballet. He has performed with River North Chicago Dance Company, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Spectrum Dance Theatre, Sonia Dawkins/Prism Dance Theatre, Haymarket Opera Company, the MasterWorks Festival, Civic Ballet of Chicago, and Evanston Dance Ensemble, and in numerous trade shows as well as worked in TV and film. In addition to studying with Elements' Co-Director Mike Gosney he trained on full scholarship at the Pacific Northwest Ballet School Professional Division and with The Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles’ apprentice program. He has also attended workshops with the Boston Ballet, the Joffrey Ballet, Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet, and the Lou Conte Dance Center. As a choreographer for Elements, Caruana’s work has been accepted into the McCallum Theatre’s Dance Under the Stars Choreography Festival and presented as part of the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) DanceBridge program and with the art installation, On the Prairie, as well as in many other festivals and projects. Caruana was awarded an Illinois Arts Council Artist Fellowship and a Richard H. Driehaus Professional Development grant to develop his original one-act ballet, The Sun King, which premiered in November 2014 with Baroque Band as part of DCASE’s SpinOff series at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. Caruana also co-conceptualized and co-choreographed Surge and AYA, An Aerial Ballet, in collaboration with Gosney and Chloe Jensen and Karen Fisher-Doyle of Aerial Dance Chicago.


What is the story of how you first came to love dance?  

I was first exposed to the performing arts as a kid when my dad would take me to see the musicals performed at the high school he taught. I fell in love with theater then and knew that was what I wanted to do.

What was your first exposure to opera? 

I was first exposed to opera as a student at the Pacific Northwest Ballet School. There we could see the company perform for free. In their Nutcracker they had a strange insert of a Mozart song in the party scene with a live opera singer. I absolutely loved the aria and was entranced by the singer’s voice as well.

If you have danced in an opera before, how is it different from performing in a dance concert?

Performing in opera can be much more confusing than being in a dance concert! Dancers in an opera are moving on and offstage so much, it is hard to know all your cues, especially when the story and music are complex and the text is in a foreign language.

How is baroque dance different from the other styles that you perform? 

Baroque dance is very similar to ballet and yet entirely different. Though they share common moves, the transitions and phrasing of baroque dance to me feel more complex than ballet. And though baroque technique is less physically demanding, it requires a bigger range of dynamics and and subtle musicality.

What is the biggest challenge you face as an artist?

Working jobs to support myself while devoting time to my artistic practice and performing.

Do you have a favorite role? Or a favorite Ballet or Modern Dance?

My favorite ballet is Balanchine’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” specifically the Act 2 divertissements. It’s the first ballet I ever saw performed live, and I went back and watched it again six times.

Do you have any favorite books about dance?

“How to Dance Forever” by Daniel Nagrin. I read it when I was a teenager and it has stayed with me since.

What else are you reading?

Right now I am reading “American Gods” by Neil Gaiman. 

Who are your favorite choreographers?

Edouard Lock from La La La Human Steps in Montreal is a favorite. It’s unfortunate his company closed a few years ago due to lack of funding.

If you were stranded on a desert island, is there one piece of music you would like to have with you? 

Maybe something by Patty Griffin

What do you love about HOC?

How talented and nice everybody is! 

Do you have a favorite memory from a past HOC event?

Being a fury  to Suzanne Lommler’s sorceress in Amadigi di Gaula, when she sang her high notes, or when she died and fell into my arms. I felt like I hardly had to do anything and I was part of an incredible, explosive artistic performance.

What is your favorite thing to do when you’re not dancing?

Eat ice cream. Or play with my nieces and nephews. Or both at the same time.

What is the first thing you think about in the morning?

Feeding and walking my dogs – there is no option there, they make me do it as soon as I get out of bed!

Do you have any heroes/heroines? 

Harry Potter is my hero.

What kind of music do you listen to most often?

Folk and alternative

If you had not entered into your current career what do you think you would have done instead?

Maybe acting or music. Definitely something in the arts!