It may come as a surprise to hear that Ireland, and in particular Dublin, is home to a vibrant contemporary dance scene. The country boasts both a number of established and highly-regarded companies (Fabulous Beast, Coiscéim, Liz Roche Company), and an emerging wave of innovative young choreographers (Liv O’Donoghue, Aoife McAtamney, Philip Connaughton, junk ensemble) who are pushing out the boundaries of what contemporary dance is capable of.
The 8th Dublin Dance Festival (DDF) takes place in locations around the city this month (May 11th – 26th), with a line-up that sees some of the best Ireland has to offer in dance billed alongside performances from international companies and choreographers of some standing.
This year, the Abbey stage hosts a piece of contemporary dance history. For three nights running, USA-based Trisha Brown Dance Company will perform Set and Reset, the iconic 1983 work that influenced a generation of choreographers and dancers. Brown has been creating dance since 1966 and, alongside Set and Reset, there is also the chance to see some of her more recent work in this performance, including 2010 piece Les Yeux et l’âme.
The ever-adventurous junk ensemble premiere their latest work, The Falling Song, at this year’s DDF. The Ireland-based company have won a host of awards and enjoyed acclaim for last year’s ABSOLUT Fringe performance of the unconventional Bird with Boy, a dance that migrated throughout the basement of Kilmainham Gaol. This latest offering from the intrepid identical twin sisters heading up the company, Megan and Jessica Kennedy, features an all-male cast and a live children’s choir, and is billed as a high-octane exploration of ‘self-destruction, invincibility and failure.’
For a real sense of what’s happening in Irish contemporary dance right now, try your luck with one (or both) of the two mixed bills being showcased by the Re-Presenting Ireland initiative. Mixed Bill 1 includes an excerpt from Irish Modern Dance Theatre’s compelling Body Duet, a dance that explores the tensions underlying our relationships with others, as well as work from promising young Irish choreographer Aoife McAtamney. With Mixed Bill 2, there’s the chance to see a snippet of Philip Connaughton’s solo project Embody, a dance in which, Connaughton explains, he tries “to understand another person’s reality/experience through imitation or impersonation… I take on their movement to understand what’s going on inside.”
But not all the action takes place on stage; in the run-up to the festival, surprise ‘guerrilla’-style dance performances by Luca Silvestrini’s Protein will bubble up without warning on various streets around the city, building to a (free!) half-hour long performance on Grafton Street on May 20th. As well as these impromptu street-dances, you can also watch an afternoon of dance on film at the IFI on May 13th, with a bill including the winner of the audience vote for the best video from RTE’s Dance on the Box made since 2006.
And finally, in no particular order, the programme for this year’s DDF also includes: morphing clouds; dancing hands; the audience as choreographer; two soloists from the Royal Ballet; small plastic cows; dance blended with technology; flavours of traditional Indian dance; and, an elegy for Patrick Pearse.
For full details of all shows and to buy tickets, see www.dublindancefestival.ie.
Words: Rachel Donnelly (follow Rachel’s coverage of the festival on the DDF blog too)