Choreographic Collectives

October 9, 2014

Surrounding oneself with the right people is vital for one’s artistry to flow forward. Do you agree? After my time at The Live Legacy Project in Dusseldorf, I spent week two in Berlin with the members of Lower Left, a choreographic collective including artists based in Marfa, Houston, New York City, and Berlin.

As dancers and performers we have all heard the saying, “the dance world is smaller than you think” and we have all experienced those “aha” moments when connections fall into place seamlessly. For me, experiencing all a collective has to offer reminds me of the broader collective we have in the arts and how important it is to cultivate a collective mentality for art to flourish.

The artists of Lower Left all bring something different to the table… something that is unique—and yet the group operates like a family. Our schedule for the week consisted of morning studio time, enjoying one another’s company, drinking good coffee, eating good food, and seeing current work: a tough life, I know! As I observed and participated as one of the group, a few characteristics of this collective, and for developing a mentality of collectiveness, stood out to me.

Generosity— These artists give their time, their energy, their artistic vision, and their finances in order to benefit the greater whole, in order to keep the art making process alive. A trip to Berlin does not come cheap, and many of the members of Lower Left were leaving behind their young children and loved ones in order to work together. Sacrifice is something we all know about as artists. I encourage you; as you give up late nights with friends, the grand apartment in Manhattan, and expendable income to do what you love, keep an attitude of generosity. Try to remember that creating is a gift and in order to do so, we must be generous to ourselves and to those in our community.

Individuality and Openness—There is something rather contradictory in this. In order to be an impactful group, the collective must also be individualized. A group is only as good as a sum of its parts. The members of Lower Left had a warm up process that was separate, but together. Everyone inhabits the space doing the warm up that pleases their body—yoga, foam rolling, improvising, Pilates—and as the room becomes warm, the soil for investigation and for openness becomes rich. This group is highly investigative as improvisation is a main source of inspiration and performance—this openness also translates to seeing work, evaluating, questioning, and building through inquiry. With this group nothing seemed to exist—“just because”.

Community—Laughter, group dinners, silly photos, doing life together, the most important attribute of a collective. Being a part of the community of Lower Left reminds me of my own community here in New York. Who is your collective? Even if you don’t belong to a proper choreographic collective, I bet you belong to a community collective. A studio, a class, a friend group… whatever it may be, notice how this group may be influencing your art and your life.

Now, back from Berlin and back to work in the front office at Steps, I watch as students come and go in the Work/Study Program and I am brought back to this idea of collective. Students in the program share ideas, rehearsal space, shows that are must sees, and often times they even share apartments. The Steps Work/Study Program is its own form of a collective—and a large one with approximately 130 students as contributing members. If you have yet to join a group, or you are curious about where a collective mentality could take your art… give this mentality a try…this lifestyle… or perhaps consider being a part of a work/study group here in NYC.

-Kylie Phillips
Dancer & Administrator, Steps on Broadway


Choreographic Collectives