Michael Caldwell, 2006 graduate of the Professional Training Program (PTP), is a Toronto-based choreographer, performer, curator, producer, and arts advocate. He has worked as a dancer with over 50 different Canadian dance artists and companies, and 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 in dance, and he is a two-time K.M. Hunter Charitable Foundation Artist Award finalist.
Currently, Michael serves as the Executive Producer for Fall for Dance North (FFDN), an annual large-scale international dance festival in Toronto, and plays a vital role on the programming/artistic team, bringing valuable insight into diverse dance forms/styles in a local, national, and international context. In addition to FFDN’s Mainstage activity, he oversees and executes the festival’s year-round site-specific programming at Union Station, Toronto’s busiest transit hub. Michael is also the Associate Artistic Director at Festival of Dance Annapolis Royal, in rural Nova Scotia.
This month, Michael will begin to choreograph a new work for our second year dancers, to be performed in our year-end show, MOMENTUM 2020; we all look forward eagerly to seeing his new creation. We caught up with him by email, as he travelled through Japan, Australia, and New Zealand in his capacity as a producer and curator, and asked him about his dance life.
What brought you to the School in the first place? What was your dance background before you came here? What was your background before you came to dance?
I was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and always had an affinity to dance/movement but was unable to take class – mainly due to my family’s financial circumstances. Upon high school graduation, I attended Syracuse University and received a bachelor’s degree in Film Production and Art History. I originally came to Toronto for a graduate degree in Museum Studies, thinking that ‘curatorial work’ would be an intriguing way to bring my film and art background into focus and clarity moving forward. Unfortunately, plans shifted and I left my graduate program after one semester. Without any clear direction, I decided that I wanted to try my hand at a dance class for the first time. So I searched ‘Toronto dance school’ online, and The School of Toronto Dance Theatre was the first hit to pop up. I discovered evening modern/contemporary dance classes for adults, and decided to enroll… and the rest is history, as they say.
Any thoughts on your time at the School? What was valuable to you? What has stayed with you?
The invaluable connections I’ve made with my fellow classmates and the faculty/teachers at the School.
What was your path immediately after you left the School?
I auditioned for Corpus Dance Projects while still in 3rd year, and was incredibly fortunate to have a job – literally the day after my graduation ceremony. I was able to travel around the world almost immediately, and my desire to travel has really defined my career trajectory and goals. I mostly worked as an interpreter with a myriad of independent choreographers in the first years after graduation. As well, immediately after graduating, some of my classmates and I formed the Crazyfish Collective, and we presented three evening-length productions in the first three years after finishing school, as a way to perform and create work.
Who have you worked with over the years?
My performance career is defined by my long affiliation with Anandam Dancetheatre, Citadel + Compagnie, Corpus Dance Projects, Dusk Dances, and Kaeja d’Dance. I have worked inside of these companies in so many different ways for years…. as a dancer, performer, choreographer, curator, producer, and audience animator… and even as a venue rental manager and tour manager.
Do you have a highlight performance memory?
I’ve worked with an incredibly diverse range of artists and companies, across the performing and visual arts, including Francesco Gagliardi, Michael Greyeyes, Emmanuel Jouthe, Santee Smith, Heidi Strauss, Tedd Robinson, and William Yong, to ‘name a few’.
What choreographic work have you done, and what is most satisfying about that work?
I’ve created work over the years, and have kept a steady artistic practice as a performance-maker. My current research centres on task-based physical relationships that manifest in tightly-structured improvisational performance works. My work interrogates the space and subverts traditional viewing assumptions in performance. I’m intrigued by site-responsiveness as an overarching theme in my work as a choreographer, curator, and interpreter.
For past choreography, I would specifically mention Factory – premiered in fall 2017 at The Citadel – my first full-length work – a timely mediation on the complexities of human interaction, for five dancers.
My work has been commissioned/presented by over 20 different organizations, including the CanAsian Dance KickStart Program, Citadel + Compagnie’s Bright Nights, dance: made in Canada Festival, Dance Matters, Dusk Dances, Nuit Blanche, Nuit Rose, Porch View Dances, and Series 8:08 (resident artist).
Any thoughts about the future?
Jennifer Dallas and I have formed a new collective, Dyade Dances, as a way to collaborate with choreographers and performance-makers. We currently have commissions with Takako Segawa and Linnea Swan, and with a remount of a Tedd Robinson duet, we will present our new production in fall 2021 in Toronto and in Ottawa.
I’m also embarking on a new collaboration with New York-based lighting designer, Joe Levasseur… to create a solo work that emphasizes the relationship between lighting design and movement in neo-performative spaces.
And finally, we asked Michael if he had any thoughts he might wish to offer to current students, and he told us:
Every connection you make in your time at the School is an invaluable one. Everything you learn has value, even if it doesn’t resonate or make sense in the moment.
We wish Michael well in all his many roles, and safe travels as he continues his journey through dance, and around the world.
Be sure to catch Michael’s work in the School’s year-end main-stage performance MOMENTUM 2020, happening April 30, May 1, 2, 7-9, 2020 at the Winchester Street Theatre. More details and ticket information: https://schooloftdt.org/performances-outreach/shows/