Photo: William Frederking
Paige Cunningham Caldarella studied at Cincinnati's School for Creative and Performing Arts. She received her B.F.A. from the Juilliard School and went on to dance for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, touringthroughout Europe, Australia and the U.S. Mrs. Caldarella holds an M.F.A. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and is an Assistant Professor at the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago. She has performed with among others The Seldoms, Colleen Halloran Performance Group, Linda Lehovec, Darrell Jones and Sara Hook. Her choreography has been seen at Chicago's Cultural Center as a recipient of the DanceBridge program, the Krannert Center, Links Hall, the Aronoff Center and Summer Stages Dance in Concord, Massachusetts. Additionally, Mrs. Caldarella has guest taught at the University of California, Berkeley, University of Florida, Gainesville, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Beloit College and Boston Ballet's summer program.
How many weeks pregnant are you (as of)?
As of today, June 10, I am twenty-one weeks pregnant.
Did you find out the baby's sex or not?
Yes, we just found out! It's a girl! I could't take the suspense of waiting.
Do you, or did you, see yourself as the parent of one sex more than the other?
No, my husband and I would be happy either way. Although, admittedly, at first, the thought of a girl intimidated me a little bit!
You rehearsed and performed a pretty physically and emotionally intense piece of choreography while pregnant. What was that like?
Yes, actually, I performed two strenuous works while pregnant. The first, "The Drift League" by Ashleigh Leite, I performed with Same Planet Different World but it was very early in my pregnancy so, I hadn't told anyone yet. The funny thing was, Joanna Rosenthal, who was also doing the piece was like 16 weeks pregnant at that point. Looking back, we were nuts. It was probably one of the hardest pieces I've ever done in my life and I've performed some hard work in my day! We started rehearsing it before I even knew I was pregnant and I kept wondering why I couldn't get through the dance. Then, once I knew, it was hard for me not to tell people because I was struggling so much in rehearsals yet I couldn't say why I was struggling and I felt like such a wimp because as I said, Joanna was in her second trimester kicking butt in the dance.
Then, just this May, I performed in Colleen Halloran's "Power in the Streets." This was at the start of my second trimester. It was harder for me because I was a bit bigger at that point! I had to be careful and couldn't quite go full throttle like I am used to. I was going in and out of the floor and jumping but definitely felt myself trying to stay calm which, in general, is something I could work on anyway in my dancing!
How are you modifying your dance activities? What is taking class like? Teaching?
Oh, it's changing!! I took ballet class the other day and that was an entirely new experience for me. I love to jump and allegro work, which is why I love going to ballet class to begin with, but I had to modify a lot of things. Petit allegro was doable--but on a much smaller scale than I'm used to. Admittedly, it is very difficult for me to hold back, but I think pregnancy is actually helping me focus on other aspects of my dancing, like the subtleties. I tend to overexert myself when I dance. Now I realize that it's not just me dancing in class--there's two of us!
As far as teaching, well, I've always been a very active teacher. I always demonstrate exercises full out. Now, I still demonstrate, but on a modified level. Pregnancy is forcing me to be clearer in my words and descriptions of movement. Come September, when I am eight months pregnant, we'll see. That will be a good test for me!
The Chicago dance community is bursting with new moms. How are you feeling with so many examples of dance motherhood around you?
It's so exciting and inspiring. You don't feel so alone. I feel like there was a time when it was considered a career ender if you were a dancer and got pregnant. Growing up in the dance world I didn't have a lot of role models of women dancing while pregnant or dancers with newborns and it wasn't until grad school that that started to shift and I watched my professors bring their babies to rehearsal or teach while pregnant.
The Chicago dance community is so welcoming now to motherhood and we have so many examples of women who are doing it all. Everyone is very supportive and it's such a relief to know that there is this network of women who understand and know what you're going through.
What are your plans to continue being artistically viable? And if you don't know yet, that's okay too!
Well, I have several projects on the horizon that are going to keep me busy over the next year. Mostly, choreographic works. I will be on maternity leave for 8 weeks in the fall, but I'll be back at work in January for the start of the spring semester at Columbia. I envision focusing more on my choreography in the next few years and performing in projects from time to time, schedule permitting! I also fully realize that my priorities are going to have to shift and I will have to find a balance. Something I am not very good at right now! Once junior is born I figure it will be day by day and planning too far in advance may be next to impossible!
Will you tell people the name if they ask, or will you keep it secret?
We are keeping that a secret though we have some ideas…
What's surprised you the most about pregnancy?
The level of exhaustion! I am slowly coming out of that phase but my goodness, through the first trimester and into the second I could barely hold my head up come 2pm! I've been in bed by 8pm most nights simply because I cannot stay awake!
Also, the rate at which your body changes. I swear this kid grows by the minute some days!