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Member of the month

Michael Caldwell 
Independent dance artist and photographer

Michael Caldwell is a Toronto-based choreographer, performer, curator, and arts advocate.  An 'intense dynamo on stage' (Scene4) with 'exceptional interpretive skills' (Globe & Mail), Caldwell has performed/collaborated with over 45 of Canada's esteemed dance creators/companies, including Peggy Baker, Emmanuel Jouthe, James Kudelka, Laurence Lemieux, Tedd Robinson, Santee Smith, Heidi Strauss, and William Yong, among others, and has worked internationally with Antony Hamilton (Australia), Tomeo Vergés (France), and Sacha Steenks (Netherlands).  He has performed across North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia.  His performances have earned him two Dora Mavor Moore Awards for outstanding performance.

Caldwell’s more recent choreographic work explores the intersection of movement, sound, and visual art in contemporary performance.  Caldwell is quickly garnering critical acclaim for his 'daring and powerful' (Bateman Reviews) choreography.  His work has been commissioned/presented at dance: made in Canada Festival, Dusk Dances, the CanAsian Dance Festival, Dance Matters, Series 8:08 (resident artist), Porch View Dances, Nuit Blanche, Nuit Rose, and the Toronto Fringe Festival.  Caldwell is a 2017 K.M. Hunter Charitable Foundation Artist Award finalist.

In his current role as artistic producer for the Fall for Dance North Festival and his previous work with Older & Reckless and Kaeja d’Dance’s ‘Wind Down Dance’, Caldwell seeks to contribute to Canada’s cultural landscape with curated dance programming of the highest artistic quality.  

With a bachelor’s degree in film/art history from Syracuse University, Caldwell sits on the artistic advisory committee at Dancemakers.

Upcoming projects/collaborations: Anika Johnson/Indrit Kasapi, Bruce Barton/Eve Egoyan/Sherri Hay, Emmanuel Jouthe, Louis Laberge-Côté, Seth Ruggles Hiler, adelheid dance projects, BoucharDanse, Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie, Corpus Dance Projects, Kaeja d’Dance, pounds per square inch performance, and Theatre Mada. 

Q: Where are you from, and how did you get into dancing?

A:  I was born and raised in Pittsburgh, and after graduating from Syracuse University with a double major in film and art history, I enrolled in the museum studies graduate program at the University of Toronto.  I lasted for a single semester before I dropped out, and started taking night classes at The School of Toronto Dance Theatre.  My first-ever technique class was in February 2003, with Helen Jones.

Q: When did you make the decision to pursue dancing as a profession?

A:  I had always loved dancing and movement, from a very young age… but I wasn’t able to take classes for a variety of economic and societal reasons.  Though sure enough, I was always cast as the ‘dancer’ in every high school musical and found myself participating in pick-up performances in university…  I guess it never really felt like a ‘decision’ to pursue dance as a profession… more like something that I had always loved to do, slowly uncovering a path that allowed me to pursue it, without even fully realizing that I was doing it. 

Q: You are constantly performing and working, has their been any highlights in your performing career? 

A:  That’s a very tough question… I would consider my short three-month tenure at Le Groupe Dance Lab as entirely transformational… to my approach to movement, my understanding of the creative process, and as a connection point to many dancers and choreographers.

Q: Do you have any upcoming performances?

A: My latest choreographic work, Factory, premieres at The Citadel on September 20th.  It’s been almost four years in the making, so I’m beyond excited to share it.  I hope that anyone reading this profile will be encouraged to attend :)… Beyond my own choreography, my next performance will be in November/December with Corpus Dance Projects, as part of the House Guests project, an intimate experience for 20 audience members in the artistic director’s own house!

Q: Along with the title of dancer, you also work as an arts advocate, producer, choreographer and curator. What was your decision behind wearing so many hats in the dance community?

A:  Again - it has never really felt like a decision to do what I do… when you are immersed in a community, in a group of people that you love, in a form and a way of expression, in an amazing city… how could I not contribute all that I can to this?  

Q: Do you find it important and a decision all dancers should take to venture further into other sectors of the performing world?

A:  Certainly, this is an individual choice for every dancer/performer to make for her/himself.  I believe that every artist must be an advocate for her or his own work.  And then - yes - I think it is incredibly important for every artist to explore different facets of the dance world, if not simply to understand more about what we do.  I have volunteered, served on several boards and committees, delivered speeches at conferences, worked backstage, mentored emerging artists… all to support the community and the milieu, while ultimately, understanding more about myself and my own artistic work.

Q: You are the Artistic Producer for Fall for Dance North!, how has it been the last few years working on such a large scale festival in Toronto?

A:  It’s truly been an immense pleasure working on this Festival, especially since the beginning.  Watching the Festival grow in such a short amount of time is incredible to experience.  I’ve learned A LOT through the course of my tenure as Artistic Producer, and I am excited about the future.

Q: The fact that the cost of a ticket is at a very affordable $15 has made FFDN very accessible for all to see high caliber companies perform in the beautiful Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, what was the initial decision to make the tickets so cost friendly?

A:  Fall for Dance is a concept created in New York City many years ago… it is a model that addresses accessibility and inclusivity, and lessens the financial barrier to arts enjoyment.  A recent Toronto Arts Foundation study determined that ‘ticket price’ was the single largest deterrent to arts attendance, so it only makes sense for this festival to emerge in Toronto.

Q: The festival has been immensely successful the past two years and is coming around for its third season! Do you think that Canadian dancers and fans of dance were very much in need of such a festival in Canada? 

A:  I think it is great to see international, national, and local dance artists sharing the stage together.  It is also amazing to see 3,000+ people experiencing dance at every performance at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, and feel the energy and excitement in the venue.  During each pause in the Festival program, conversations ignite in the room - everyone talking about DANCE.  Additionally, there is much happening behind-the-scenes, to encourage presenters to attend the Festival and promote the work of Ontario-based artists.

Q: With your many years of performance experiences has their been any moment or point in time where your mindset on what dance means shifted? If so what would be your best piece of advice for emerging dancers first entering the professional world?

A:  My perspective on ‘dance’ changes with every performance that I see, with every creative process that I am in, and with each conversation that I have with my friends and colleagues.  Art always shifts as fast as the world it responds to, and we are living in very turbulent times.  I do not really consider myself as a dispensary of advice or wisdom, so I can only share my own experience in dance… hold true to your values, remain open to all the possibilities that come your way, make yourself a valuable and important part of the dance milieu, support your colleagues and their work, and above all, stay positive, have fun, do good work, and make good stuff!

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