“We became really good friends before going into a relationship, which was even better than love at first sight for me,” Shaka said.
Twenty years later, the two are continuing their relationship on a college campus — except this time they’re teaching. Shaka said her favorite part of being together at UNC has been getting students from their classes to work together.
“We get to collaborate,” Shaka said. “We did it for the first time last spring, and it ended up being super fun to have the dancers and the poets working together.”
Katie Kay Chelena, a UNC graduate who took Calvocoressi’s honors poetry thesis class, said she enjoyed working with Calvocoressi and Shaka together.
“I think what’s so lovely about them as a couple is that when they get around each other, there’s this tangible joy and comfort that is so easy to be around as a person and as an artist,” Chelena said.
Although their two passions — dance and poetry — may not seem similar on the surface, Shaka said being able to collaborate and discuss her craft with Calvocoressi has taught her a lot.
“There are lots of ways in which the questions you ask yourself when making a dance are similar to the ones you ask when you’re writing a poem, so we’re learning that from each other,” Shaka said.
Along with learning from each other, Calvocoressi and Shaka are still learning new things about each other.
For years, both said they secretly compared themselves to Merce Cunningham and John Cage — a dancer and a composer who had a lifelong professional and personal relationship. But neither knew the other had made the same comparison until they were interviewed together.
“I think that, to me, is what has kept us going for 20 years,” Calvocoressi said. “Every day I learn something new from her, and I’m never tired of hanging out with her and all of the things about her I get to be surprised by.”
Outside of teaching, Calvocoressi and Shaka have spent the past two decades cooking, seeing movies and traveling to different countries. Calvocoressi said they are grateful to spend so much of their lives together.
“While I think there are so many great things about meeting people later in life, there is something really cool about being together since college — we grew up together.”