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Choreographed courtship

A long-distance love affair at Dance: Made in Canada

Credit: Cylla von Tiedemann

Though Michael Caldwell and Louis Laberge-Côté had been acquaintances for four years, it took an administrative mix-up to unite the dancer/choreographer couple. While on tour in 2007, their rooming assignments were switched mid-trip, and they found themselves bunking together for the final three weeks.

“I was so angry,” Laberge-Côté says. “I didn’t want to room with somebody I barely knew. But obviously, things turned out quite well in the end.”

“Every night we would stay up, talking and getting to know each other,” Caldwell adds. “When the tour was finished and we were back in Toronto, we decided a proper date would be prudent. A month later, it was clear we were together.”

Less than a year later, they tied the knot in a backyard wedding but had no intentions of a conventional relationship. Extensive touring often kept them apart for long stretches, at one point for two years while Laberge-Côté worked with the Mannheim Ballet.

“This is the life of a dancer,” Caldwell says. “You go where the work is. We’re both loners by nature, so the idea of spending time apart was not as daunting as you might think.”

Separation became a creative seed; their current work, et même après (and even after), explores their long-distance love affair. Created originally by Laberge-Côté with two dancers in Mannheim, the piece has been reimagined as a duet for its Toronto incarnation.

Living apart for long periods seems to have benefited their relationship. But what about spending countless hours together in the studio?

“I’ve laughed a lot, I’ve cried a lot, and it’s been exhausting,” Caldwell says. “But an exhausting creative process is the best sign you’re creating something special.” — Chris Dupuis