Throwdown Collective: ‘Where ideas bounce around easily and spark new ones’

As Throwdown Collective prepares to take the In the Studio stage this week at the 19th Annual Guelph Dance Festival, we took a few minutes of their time to find out more about what it’s like to be part of their Collective.
Founded in 2008, the Toronto-based trio is a contemporary dance company that supports the collaborative creative pursuits of founders Zhenya Cerneacov, Mairéad Filgate and Brodie Stevenson. Creating both site-specific and stage work, the collective have created three site-specific commissions for Dusk DancesOne Couch (2009), Boxset (2011),  and 1981FM (2013), all of which went on to tour with the festival and beyond, throughout Ontario, to Trois-Rivières, Quebec; & Vancouver, British Columbia.

The group performs Wednesday, May 31, 7:00 pm; Thursday, June 1, 8:00 pm; and Friday, June 2, 8:00 pm at 42 Quebec Street, Guelph. A talkback follows the Thursday performance. A reception follows the Friday performance.

Scroll to the end to catch some video of the group in action!

Ticket information:  
What is the Throwdown process like?
Mairéad: For the most part it is really a lot of fun! From the beginning we have had great chemistry as a group. We share a sense of humor and similar values around how to work and what kind of work we are interested in. We talk a lot about the work of other artists and what we connect to and don’t. When we’re working we have found a great flow together where ideas bounce around easily and spark new ones. When we’re in work mode we’re all very engaged and excited about the work. The process of making together also feels like a huge relief from working as a solo choreographer. Because we are all invested equally the process feels very supportive, and when it comes down the nitty-gritty of getting things done we divvy up the work and use each other as sounding boards when we need it. We always make decisions together which takes a little longer but feels good in terms of us all being equally invested. And when there is a crisis (we’ve had a few) its so much better not to have to go it alone. What I might cry over if I were solely responsible, we end up laughing about together most of the time. We have our challenges as in any collaborative working situation but three seems to be a good number in terms of neutralizing things and for the most part things roll off our backs and we get back as quickly as possible to the task of doing the work.
How do you pull a piece together?

Brodie: In general, we propose movement ideas and then improvise with these ideas to mine them for anything that we might consider physically exciting or dramatically compelling.  Once we have identified phrases, images or ideas that we would like to go back to we begin to experiment with how best to reconstruct them, either through creating and learning a phrase of movement or by refining an improvised score that is specific enough to get us back to the original image or movements we first liked.  From there, we begin to stitch together our ideas and phrases to begin creating a pathway through our movement ideas and to find an over-arching build or logic to all of the material. This part of the process involves a lot of trial and error and often continues on even after the piece is close to finished. The entire process is collaborative so we are always discussing and evolving what it is we are working towards and what we hope it will read as in front of an audience.
What is the difference between working just the 3 of you vs. working with an outside choreographer?
Zhenya: Working with an outside choreographer is a much simpler process. We only have to worry about our tasks as dancers and following instructions from the choreographer. In a collective structure, we are dancers and co-choreographers at the same time. As co-choreographers in our own work, we have both the perspective of a dancer within the work, as well as the outside perspective through the use of video footage. We use both perspectives to explore, perfect and refine our choreographic material.
Through extensive communication, we voice our individual interests in the various aspects of the material that we’re working on. We listen to each other’s ideas and interests, then we come up with a common set of notes, tasks and suggestions for ourselves to execute as dancers.

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