The dancer comes to The Project with a double-bill that moves away from the purely ephemeral
Hear Me Sing Your Song – just from the title it suggests the idea of the dichotomy between the self and ‘expression’ of the self. Is that the territory we’re in? I suppose as an artist and performer I am constantly exposing and projecting various versions of myself. It’s a tricky one to define, but I would say that the dichotomy arises somewhere between reality and a version of reality. All performance work lies somewhere between real life and make believe, and I guess with my work I try to tip the scales in favour of reality.
You’re working with Caoimhin O’Raghallaigh and actors. You performed in award-winning Lippy last year. Why is it necessary for your work to be interdisciplinary? I think a lot of performance work has become interdisciplinary over the past number of years. The lines between creative practices are blurring because as artists we’re all constantly searching for something new. I regularly collaborate with people from various disciplines, but this is the first time I’m really inviting them into the process of creating movement. Getting non-trained dancers to perform with us has been a way of democratizing the idea of a dance show. The ideas we’re researching are universal, so it seemed appropriate to work with people with a wider range of skills and sensibilities than we normally would with a dance show. I wanted to work with a cast of regular people, who of course, turned out to be incredibly interesting
Ireland seems to be going through a fruitful period in terms of young and emerging dance practitioners of a very high standard. What do you put this down to? Since the 80’s Irish dancers have been training abroad in the UK, Russia, Germany, the USA, France and Holland, to name but a few. Irish contemporary dance has always been of a high international standard, with the likes of John Scott or Liz Roche blazing the trail. More recently, with brand new facilities and increased opportunities through Dance Ireland, more and more dancers and choreographers have been returning home. With this sort of infrastructure for training, researching, rehearsing and learning in place, it also means that we can have a much easier dialogue with our international counterparts, meaning Irish artists are keenly aware of the developments on the international scene and we’re well able to keep up.
Tell us about the double bill Hear Me Sing Your Song and With Raised Arms – why the double-bill format and how does each show spill into the other? The double-bill format came about because I was funded through two separate channels which were supporting the creation of new works. I’ve been working on both pieces in tandem over the past year and this event at Project Arts Centre allowed me to have the opportunity to share them side by side. Through the evening, the audience will have a chance to see two quite different works that lay bare the way in which I have been working more recently. I think there’ll be something for everyone.
Your background is Norwegian-Irish and you claim this to be an influencing factor in some of your work. Could you elaborate on that a little? My mother is Norwegian and my father is Irish. Growing up, my brothers and I always felt a little different both here and in Norway. Anyone from a mixed heritage background will attest to the strange hybrid traditions that arise, and our family was no different! I wanted to look further into this idea of duality in identity, or being split between two places and not quite knowing where to call home. In the end, I think it’s really people who are your home and that’s what we’ve really tried to play on with this cast.
Talk about moving away from the ephemerality of dance that you mentioned in your recent interview with Michael Seaver in The Irish Times – why did you find that to be important to you? The art work (across any discipline) which I find most engaging is the type that triggers something in my gut which I can recognise. In that way, I am interested in making pieces which reveal to the audience something of themselves. There is a lot of incredibly beautiful dance work which allows us to escape from ourselves, but in a way, where my interest lies is more in confronting something within ourselves. Being able to craft a dance in which we can take real human behaviour that we all recognize, and amplify it in the context of the theatre is a very special thing.
The cast is composed of musicians, actors, performers, dancers – how does a performance benefit from this? We have an incredibly skilled set of individuals working on this project which we have really benefited from. Everyone involved comes from a different background and the team is really hands on. Bryan O’Connell was previously both a stage technician and an architect, so that came in really handy when we were designing and building our set! Performance-wise, I think this varied group of people lend the idea that we’re witnessing a small cross-section of society, that the themes and ideas we are working with really are universal. These are the everymen and women we can all recognize.
Roisin Agnew @Roxeenna