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iCoDaCo and the Art of Collaboration


When it comes to choreographing a new dance work, what’s most crucial? Is it the concept, the steps, the stamina? Or it is all in the collaboration?

They, undoubtedly, all play an important role in any production. But for the International Contemporary Dance Collection (iCoDaCo), which consists of artists and producers scattered across the globe, collaboration plays an especially key role.

We talk to the members of iCoDaCo about their unique approach to dance making, and how collaboration fuels their latest production, Transformation, and how the audience can get involved when it holds its Hong Kong residency at ArtisTree in August.

Collaboration… the beginning
First step: set the rules (or lack thereof).

“We wanted to flip [the rules of traditional systematic international collaborations] inside out, upside down, and start the conversation between artists and foster a real democratic, horizontal structure where every voice matters,” says Israel Aloni, Swedish co-founder of iCoDaCo, who hails from Sweden. “The process is evolutionary; you are partners in decision making processes that are usually being taken by one individual.”

Collaboration with… each other

“We first initiate a dialogue between the artists and ask what they think they need to operate in a collective form,” explains Aloni. “We are different because we are a collection of people who have never worked together before.” It was during the months of online correspondence where the troupe faced their first hurdle: embracing each other’s cultural differences.

“It’s a really challenging process in a positive way,” says co-founder of iCoDaCo, Lee Brummer, also from Sweden. “We speak [our mother tongues] differently; the different length of our sentences, intonations – they created a lot of misunderstandings and negotiations that we had to comment from in a collaborative sense.”

“How we respond differently or how we got our points across, how [we were] interrelating with each other, is really fundamental to the outcome of the work. It is the lifeblood of the work,” adds Welsh dramaturg Gwyn Emberton.

“You gain new experiences about each other every day,” says choreographer Eddie Ladd, also from Wales. “And that's how we pushed the process forward.”

Collaboration with… the audience
At the Open Rehearsals, a “two-sided” viewing with the audience introduces a new way of collaboration.

“The Open Rehearsals are an opportunity to meet the audience and involve them in the early stages of creation. For many dancemakers in Hong Kong, the most common practice is to not to let the audience see the ‘unfinished’ imperfections on stage,” says Hong Kong producer Jacqueline Wong. “The Open Rehearsal is an opposite practice. The audience will come to see how a dance work is being made from the beginning. They will have the chance to witness how the choreographers exchange ideas with each other, some of them will become part of the work, while some will be trimmed down or thrown away.”

The audience will be invited to bring objects, music and food, as well as share stories that reflect their perspective on “transformation”, too. “We put a lot of value in meeting people on an intellectual, emotional and physical level. [The residency] is offering space for this meeting to occur,” says Aloni of the audience/artist dynamic. “It’s not about forcing people to involve themselves in that process [but] we want to collect personal stories to inspire our work.”

“It doesn’t end at the end of the two weeks in Hong Kong,” says Emberton. “[The audience] will be able to stay in contact with the development of the artists’ work online as the process rolls on.”

Collaboration with… destinations 
Transformation will tour in each member’s respective country leading up to a premier in Poland. First stop: Hong Kong.

“By working with people from so far away from where we are, it creates a new energy within the project; a new way of working,” says Emberton.

“We are not coming to force any existing concept because it’s about listening with all our senses, rather than working from assumptions,” says Aloni. “There is a personal aspect that we will not have any access to from the outside,” he adds. “So even though we are coming into Hong Kong, we are inviting Hong Kong into our inside.”

Follow @artistreehk on Instagram for #ABiteofInspiration

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