Photo by La Berlue Media
Louis Laberge-Côté is a Toronto-based dancer, choreographer and teacher. A graduate from both L’École de Danse de Québec and The School of Toronto Dance Theatre, he joined Toronto Dance Theatre in 1999, and has danced with the company for 8 seasons, under the artistic direction of Christopher House. Meanwhile, Louis has built an exceptionally active career as a freelance artist. He has worked with several esteemed choreographers, and has toured in North America, Europe, and Asia. Between 2009 and 2011, he joined the Kevin O’Day – Ballett Nationaltheater Mannheim (Germany) as a soloist dancer and contemporary dance teacher.
His work has garnered him 5 Dora Mavor Moore Award nominations for Outstanding Performance and Choreography, and NOW Magazine named him “Toronto’s Dance Most Valuable Player” in 2006. His choreographic work has been presented and commissioned in Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Switzerland, and been described as a “wonderfully sophisticated jewel” (Die Rheinpfalz) and a “triumph… with tremendous depth and subtext” (Classical 96.3FM). A sought-after pedagogue, he has taught master classes and workshops all across the country and was on faculty at Ryerson University from 2007-2008. He was the Chair of the Canadian Alliance of Dance Artists – Ontario Chapter between 2005 and 2007 and currently shares the Vice-Presidency at the Canadian Dance Assembly. He also sits on the Toronto Arts Council Dance Committee.
Interview with Louis Laberge-Côté
Tell us about yourself, location and company.
My name is Louis Laberge-Côté. I was born in Québec City (where I graduated from the professional program of L’École de Danse de Québec). I moved to Toronto in 1997, to study at The School of Toronto Dance Theatre. In 1999, I joined the company of Toronto Dance Theatre while completing my studies at the school. I danced with the company for 8 years, while building a very active freelance career. Over the years, I performed for numerous Toronto choreographers, created several dance works, and taught extensively across the country. I moved to Germany in 2009 to join the Kevin O’Day Ballett Nationaltheater Mannheim. I danced with the company for 2 years, after which I moved back to Toronto, back to my freelance career.
What is your dance background? What drew you to it?
My dance training began at age 4, with jazz dancing. I had a natural fascination for dance right from the beginning and begged my parents to take dance classes when I was 3 (which surprised them since there are no other dancers in the family). I stayed within the jazz aesthetics until I was 16, which is when I discovered modern dance. It was a love at first sight experience. Modern and contemporary dance has been an integral part of my life since then.
Describe your approach to movement and your creative process. What is your favourite part of your approach?
I enjoy working intuitively. By that, I mean that I prefer not to decide and plan everything about my work. I play with different images and ideas that seem to be part of the world I want to explore. I re-arrange them in different ways until something “magical” happens (it usually does at some point). My favourite part of the process is when the piece start creating itself, making me feel like I am not really a creator, but more of a facilitator who helps the creation of something which wants to come to life (similar to the idea that the sculpture already exists inside the rocks… the sculptor just needs to unveil it).
Is there a Canadian artist/organization who has really had an impact on your artistic development and career?
Everybody I collaborated with had somewhat of an impact on me. Some people had a bigger impact on how I perform, while others had more of an impact on how I create or teach. Obviously, Christopher House (AD of Toronto Dance Theatre) is probably my biggest influence thus far, since I worked for him, took his classes and seen his work for so long. I am looking forward to start a mentorship process with Tedd Robinson next year, which I suspect will have a huge impact on my artistic development.
In 30 words or less, define yourself as an artist.
My work is made of breathing flesh, fluid bones, and pounding heartbeats. A search from completeness, my creations contain poetry, ambiguity, specificity and are meant to touch, empower, and transform.
What was it that attracted you to being involved with d:mic/fac?
I attended the festival several times since 2000 and always enjoyed it. When AD Yvonne Ng invited me to choreograph for the festival in 2006, I was very happy and excited. It was indeed a very good experience. I appreciate the new bi-annual summer format of the festival, as Toronto needs to have a good summer contemporary dance festival which support local and national choreographers. I am thrilled to be part of the list of amazing artists who will present their work at the festival this year.
What advice do you have for aspiring dance artists and choreographers?
Stay true to your voice while taking risks. Be disciplined, courageous, humble, inventive, open, compassionate, curious and generous. Keep asking yourself why you want to dance and create. Ask yourself how you can contribute the art form, the artistic community, and society as a whole.
Briefly tell us about your newest projects. What can we expect from your performance at d:mic/fac 2013?
I was recently nominated for a Dora for Outstanding Ensemble Performance and Outstanding Choreography with Akshongay, a work I co-created and co-performed with Nova Bhattacharya. The work was premiered in Toronto in April, as part of DanceWorks Mainstage Season. Since then, I rehearsed with Signal Theatre (Michael Greyeyes) for A Soldier’s Tale, a work that will premiere in Toronto in February 2014. I will be teaching in Toronto, London (ON), and Ottawa this summer. In the fall, I will choreograph for The School of Toronto Dance Theatre, Ryerson University and The School of Dance in Ottawa.
The piece I will present at the festival is a duet I am creating on Michael Caldwell (my husband) and me. It is inspired by the challenges we faced while I was living in Germany (Michael stayed in Toronto during that time). It is about intimacy, distance, connection and loneliness.
Louis will be performing …et même après as part of the Von Tiedemann series at d:mic/fac on August 15 at 7pm, and August 16 & 17 at 9pm. This piece is an intimate duet inspired by the struggles of separation. Performed with his life partner Michael Caldwell, it is based on a short study which was originally created in Germany, while the two dancers lived in different countries.