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'Liminal' by Throwdown Collective

World Premiere presented by DanceWorks

Courtesy of DanceWorks web page

Guest writer Geoffrey Coulter, actor, director, arts educator

Toronto’s DanceWorks started 2023 with an interesting, visually appealing and esoteric tale of change and evolution conceived and performed by a superbly disciplined trio of artists from the Throwdown Collective.

I’ve always marvelled at modern dance and how choreographers and dancers can tell a myriad of narratives, apparently abandoning the confines of classic technique and randomly shaping their bodies, leaping, writhing, running and stretching to tell a subtle, off-beat tale.

Such is the approach to Throwdown Collective’s “Liminal”.

The program states the piece, “examines time and perception with theatrical imagery and dynamic physicality”. This performance certainly showcased theatrical imagery and dynamic physicality, but I was often puzzled. Don’t get me wrong, this 60-minute performance, which I would call more movement than actual dance, was created and performed by three extremely gifted artists – Mairéad Filgate, Zhenya Cerneacov, and Brodie Stevenson. Their enormous dedication, skill and herculean physical control are a sight to behold. They lift each other, fall into each other’s arms, run, roll, embrace, convulse, pulsate, gyrate, snap, and even tie a necktie in trilateral unison.

Though the messaging often had my companion and me scratching our heads, the individual investment of these artists in the work was ultra-impressive.

Performed in a black-box style space, David J. Patrick’s and Great Lakes Scenic Studios provided a small portable revolving stage. Narrow shafts of pre-show light beamed through clouds of ethereal smoke projecting two rotating and intersecting vertical lines centre stage. Haphazardly strewn about the stage were men’s shoes, shirts pants, and brightly-coloured rumpled suits, and ties (courtesy of costume designer Sorcha Gibson) that seemed to have spilled out of a laundry bag as someone was running to the cleaners.
The performers entered wearing only their undergarments, equally spaced themselves on the revolving floor and proceeded to dress in slow motion. They jumped on and off the revolving stage, undressed and dressed again, connected, hugged each other, fought each other, folded, unfolded, in almost complete silence.

Mute madness and mayhem? I wanted more human sound to help me connect.

This transcendent compendium was supported by a fabulous original score by Joshua Van Tassel. His eerie drones, clanging phrases and pugnacious percussive underscored the roller-coaster of activity on the whirling wheel. From hard-hitting jabs to a single heartbeat, his choices here were spot-on.

Lighting designer Arun Srinivasan once again shows us his brilliance in illuminating a space. I’ve recently seen other shows designed by this Lord of Light and he never fails to impress. His wonderful use of specials, motion gobos, and pattern projections combined with colourful side lights and narrow steep beams from above created equal parts mystery and psychedelia. Brava!

It was a full house at this final performance with query and conversations abounding at the post-show reception. Throwdown Collective has created a buzz in Toronto’s theatre scene. Their work is unexpected but thoughtful. Even though I wasn’t always sure the meaning of what I was watching, it was executed brilliantly!

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