I was really happy to be invited to teach and perform at the Festival Contact+ in Chisinau, Moldova in September just past. The organisers are Alexandra Soshnikova (Sasha) and Sergei Golovnea (Serioja) with whom Echo Echo and I have collaborated since 2007, when I made a duet called “Intimacies” for them. Intimacies has been performed many times internationally and is still “live” after 12 years having become a sort of signature piece for them.
As well as being two of the most beautiful dancers I have ever worked with, Sasha and Serioja are wonderful and remarkable people and their success is undoubtedly founded in the incredible positive energy, good will and open-hearted attitude that they bring to everything they do. Working in rather difficult economic conditions in the capital of what is, by most measures, the poorest country in Europe they have managed to organise a string of successful international festivals on a shoestring budget. Over the years they have also maintained the high quality of their particular artistic practice as contemporary dancers, improvisers and Contact Improvisers at the same time as working in an amazing variety of contexts, including cabaret, cruise liners, night clubs, hotel chains, the Eurovision song contest, a tango salon, and as judges and mentors on their national TV’s dance/reality TV competition. They also maintain a vibrant dance school for children which covers modern and traditional dance.
Alex and Serioja (right) performing during the festival. Sasha and Olek in a Contact Tango workshop (familiar Derry face in Moldova!)
The relationship between Echo Echo and Sasha and Serioja is a deep one which has developed over many years. They have been to Derry several times. They performed Intimacies in the Waterside Theatre in 2007, joined the Motion Ensemble project in City of Culture year, 2013, brought a full programme of work to the first Echo Echo Festival of Dance and Movement that same year and returned to the festival in 2017 to lead an improvisation-in-performance project with the Echo Echo Ensemble and to perform the duet, Gravity Free Point.
During the twelve days of the festival this September I taught classes for adults and children together (something that the Echo Echo ensemble and I have become somewhat renowned for in the past few years), a class for younger teenagers on phrasing and solos and a five day intensive performance workshop, for a multi-national group of adult festival participants, which led to an end of festival performance also focused on solos and phrasing.
I also performed my solo work, “How To Watch Dancing – Looking Away From The Naked Emperor”. The performance was on the enormous stage of the Ionescu Theatre, Chisinau. It was lovely to perform in such an important venue and the support from the main technician there, Tudor Carapascal, was fantastic.
Here are a few pictures of the audience watching my solo, How To Watch Dancing…
and here are some of me performing – with help…
… and here are a few pictures of the performance created in the workshop focusing on solos…
… and here are a few pictures of the various workshops I taught…
There were many other wonderful performers and teachers at the festival, including some familiar to Echo Echo – Leilani Weiss, Mirva Maakinen, Virginia Negru, Olga Braga – it was so nice to connect up with them.
You can find out more about the festival and the work of Sasha and Serioja at:
Echo Echo Ensemble – Ayesha Mailey, Kelly Quigley, Zoe Ramsey and Tonya Sheina – were teaching at a Contact Improvisation Festival in the Kaluga region of Russia earlier this August. The Festival took place at a working eco farm, deep in the forest, with around 60 people attending. The setting was breathtaking, especially when the sun was shining.
“We could not have asked for better hosts or participants. We shared our approach to movement and performance working in depth for 3 full days.
It was a wonderful experience and a great opportunity for the four of us to teach together as a unit, which we rarely get the chance to do.
The sound of the cicadas served as a beautiful sound score for sections of our classes and was very inspiring to improvise to during the jamming sessions in the evening.”
The Ensemble is very grateful to have been given the opportunity to be able to do this international project and would like to thank Masha Grudskaya, Echo Echo Dance Theatre Company, and Arts Council Northern IrelandSupport for Individual Artist Programme for making it happen.
Echo Echo Dance Theatre Company is delighted to announce the return of WITHOUT – the hauntingly beautiful seven-screen film installation by Rosemary Lee and Echo Echo that was created for City of Culture 2013.
Without has been described as “a spectacular poem of the city” and “one of the greatest artworks I have ever seen” by audience members in 2013 and the work subsequently toured to Dublin Dance Festival and British Dance Edition in Cardiff to very wide popular and critical acclaim.
“Without seemed to produce a sense of seeing their city through fresh eyes for some of the general public who came to see it. One lovely piece of feedback from a man in his sixties made me feel that we had done the right thing. He said, ‘Thank you. You’ve helped me see my city through new eyes and see it at peace.’”
Around 500 people were involved in filming Without during April 2013 including cyclists, tea-dancers, skateboarders, dancers, and hundreds of local primary school children. Many thousands of people watched the work being filmed around the city from Bishop Street to the Guildhall, from Ebrington to Creggan.
Mayor of Derry and Strabane, Councillor Michaela Boyle, said:
“I am delighted that this event has been included as part of the Council’s Walls 400 programme that sets out to showcase a wide range of local cultural and arts projects across the city and district. Good luck to everyone involved and I hope it is a huge success.”
Echo Echo’s principal funder, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, supported the initial creation of Without in 2013. Noirin McKinney, Director of Arts Development, said:
“The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is proud to have supported the development of this powerful and moving work in 2013; a project that was hugely engaging for the local community that helped to create it. Following a successful tour in Ireland and the UK, we’re absolutely thrilled to see this special work return to the city where it was created to be enjoyed by many.”
The seven films of Without are shown concurrently, in-the-round, in a specially created installation accompanied by an original sound score by Graeme Miller. Each full cycle lasts 22 minutes and is shown on a continuous loop.
Without will return to the city for a month-long exhibition from Friday 23rd August 2019 at Echo Echo Studios in Magazine Street as part of the Walls400 programme of events.
Echo Echo recently completed the first year of the Dancing Together project – a dance and music project in partnership with local schools and community partners.
All P1-P7 pupils in St Patrick’s PS, Dunamanagh were involved in a long programme of weekly movement and music sessions with Echo Echo Ensemble artists Ayesha Mailey and Tonya Sheina with musicians Ronan McKee of Play Percussion and Mark O’Doherty leading to a sharing performance at Echo Echo Studios in Derry.
During a time when creative arts are being eliminated from schools in Northern Ireland due to continued funding cutbacks and political stalemate, and despite the valiant and often voluntary efforts of individual staff and teachers to ensure that dance, music and arts projects are still made available to pupils, the Dancing Together project has demonstrated the positive impacts of children participating regularly in quality arts and creative activities.
Principal of St Patrick’s Jacqueline Carlin, which will amalgamate with three other Sperrin primary schools this summer to form the new St Michael’s PS, told us:
“You know my sentiments on the benefits that the creative and aesthetic bring to the curriculum for children. I believe its benefits are not solely in the performance and the pride which this inspires in both parents and children, but that it feeds directly into the achievement across the curriculum. Pupils who are confident and have self-esteem, are more able to engage with the academic side of the curriculum, are more willing to take chances with their learning and to ‘have a go’. Your programme instils such confidence in our children and the fact that we have been partners for a number of years is readily apparent in the level of engagement which you have with pupils – how many schools have P7 boys who are confident enough to perform an improvised dance for an audience! Our parents too, have learnt over the years of our holistic approach to the curriculum and are aware that our weekly dance sessions are contributing in ways which cannot be measured to their children’s development. The number of parents who came to our performance in the Echo Echo Dance Theatre is testament to this.
In the time when schools are acutely aware of pupil mental health and well-being, I know that I am very fortunate to be able to offer this opportunity for weekly self-awareness, calmness, self-control and gentle working with others. Add to this the opportunity to work with professional dancers and musicians (such as Mark, and African Drumming with Ronan McKee) and I am confident that I am addressing the well-being of the pupils of our school.”
A big thank-you to everyone involved at the school, all of the children who took part for their commitment, to the Echo Echo artistic team, and to the project funders BBC Children in Need, Arts Council NI, and Derry City and Strabane District Council.
Here is a small selection of images from the project by Patrick Duddy Photography:
I just spent three days at the Baltic dance Platform in Vilnius the capital city of Lithuania. The platform is an integral part of the annual international contemporary dance festival New Baltic Dance. It was pleasant surprise to be able to go. Dance Ireland sent me a message only a few days ago asking if I’d like to attend as their representative with support from the European Dance House Network.
I don’t know for sure, but I guess they realised that everyone in Dublin and around the Republic of Ireland was going to be fully caught up with the Dublin Dance Festival and I came to their thoughts as someone who could benefit from filling the gap. I was really happy to accept the offer. Luckily the dates fitted into my diary between other immoveable commitments.
Echo Echo Dance Theatre Company balances on a tight-wire of financial survival. There is no way for the company to pay for a trip like this from our budget. It isn’t even a matter of priorities really. There just isn’t any money to do it. This means that as artistic director of our annual festival and the Echo Echo Ensemble I am pretty semi-detached from the round of European festivals, co-production processes, networking and exchange.
I think that this isolation has, to an extent been a blessing for the development of the work of the company. It is very easy to get distracted from the rooted relevance and richness of ongoing art practice in a particular place by the slippery surface of the international circuit. However, this is of course a mixed blessing as despite an inevitable tendency to fleeting and shallow connections there is also potential warmth and collegiality in meeting, in person, at events where people have shared experiences of shows and other events to reflect on together and the opportunity for discussion and exchange in person. For these reasons I was thrilled to be approached.
It is relatively unusual to take on all the roles I have, being artistic director of a company and ensemble, programming an annual festival, taking a producer role in projects, overseeing studios, hosting artist residencies, directing and choreographing new work, performing and taking on a wide range of teaching, and my feeling was that the trip could be beneficial for all, or most, aspects of my work.
Most importantly, of course, going to a festival gives the chance to see lots of performances in a short space of time. As well as being a marvellous pleasure and privilege in itself this also gives a chance to locate the work we do in Echo Echo in relation to other contexts.
So here are a few reflections on the various aspects of the busy schedule over the three days.
European Dance-House Network presentation:
I am in no position to make any firm judgements, having only a very partially informed perspective but it was pretty clear that there are what seem to be quite fundamental issues to be addressed around the membership structure and processes for fulfilling the core purposes of the network. The network co-ordinators making the presentation did refer to these issues, arising from how it has grown and developed from its roots as a small group of, organisations, primarily in Western Europe, that identified shared interests and sourced European Union funding to help them to establish a formally constituted network to address these interests. The strong, but polite and respectful contributions from the floor did add emphasis, though. There were comments about the map that was projected during the presentation which showed, rather starkly, that the member organisations were situated, overwhelmingly, in the richer, western countries of the EU. There were pointed comments, from direct experience, about the perceived exclusivity of the “club”, concerns about having “membership by invitation only” policy, and the perennial danger, in the context of EU funding, that the energy of organisations, which characteristically experience being under resourced already, can be sucked towards sustaining international networks and diverted from core functions and priorities. It was fairly clear that the presenters were a least partly aware of these concerns but the impression I had was that they left the meeting with a realisation that they may need to spend some serious effort on re-thinking what they do, how they do it and how they communicate it.
Showcase /Pitching Sessions
I don’t really like this context for finding out about work. I feel uncomfortable in the “festival programmer going shopping” role and I’ve disliked being on the other side too as a performer or presenter. It always seems to favour rather predictable work which is easily distilled to a dynamic presentation. This is the same problem that arises with PR clips and taster videos. Of course it is natural enough that festivals should try to support artists from their locality to present to visiting programmers and producers just as it is natural for those people to attend but that doesn’t really change my feelings.
In this case the discomfort was somewhat relieved by the choice to get a couple of local dancers who also perform as comedy duo “B&B” to compère. Their way of doing this, which referred, explicitly, to the tension in the context with humour and irony was skilful and imaginative. They had prepared well, knowing the names and backgrounds of the invited “buyers” as well as the details of the artists and work being presented and they kept returning shamelessly to teasing the large element of the audience who might be on a “shopping expedition”. This definitely helped me to avoid the feeling that I was pushing a supermarket trolley as I watched. The whole feeling was a lot more collegial and relaxed than I have experienced before. The 16 works presented, by artists and companies from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, were at very varied stages of development, from pieces that had already a history of touring to very fresh new ideas. It included work for children and families. It was interesting to see how artists chose different strategies for dealing with the context. These included simply, quietly and clearly describing the piece while kneeling in front of the audience, doing one section of the piece full on but not really contextualising it, demonstrating some of the creative process, having live performance simultaneously with clip videos running in the background, and mixtures of these.
None of the works, as presented, really grabbed me, and I’d tend to put that down to the context rather than the inherent quality of the work. However, a couple made me interested to find out more and conversations afterwards may lead to Echo Echo making a creative connection through residencies with one or two of the artists.
On reflection I realised that what I was really interested by was B&B, the compère duo. So I’ve started a chat with them about whether they might be interested to come to Echo Echo to work on integrating their presentation and comedy stuff with their backgrounds in contemporary dance. I think that is something that we could really help them to develop. One of the other artists approached me as well. The material she showed seemed quite underdeveloped but it had a sense of honesty and integrity to it and maybe we’ll be able to welcome her to have the time and quiet and support she feels she needs to take her work further.
I do remain concerned that the fact that this format seems to be rather common might be having the effect of guiding younger artists towards working processes that align with creating pieces that present well in this kind of context rather than paying close attention to those deeper, more autonomous, mysterious textures and rhythms demanded by their creative intuitions and which might lead them to interesting and unknown territories.
Fully produced and presented works
I saw 7 fully produced works by artists and companies from the Baltic States that had performances programmed in the main festival.
Kaunas Zoo by Aura Dance Theatre used some quite camp references to night club life, including gold lamé costumes. It seemed to want to make a critique of alienation but failed to solve the perennial problem that just presenting alienated behaviour on stage doesn’t, in and of itself, constitute a critique or even an exploration of the theme. The full on, and enjoyable, energy of the performers and their pleasure in playing the stereotypes actually created, for me, a sort of uncomfortable experience of cognitive dissonance which I didn’t feel was quite the intention.
Future Freak by Latvians, Agate Bankava and Andris Kacanovskis was a dystopian “eco destruction” piece which had a kind of uncomfortable scratchy feel to it but the composition and performance didn’t really sustain the demands of 50 minutes. The loudness, both literal and metaphoric of the presentation wasn’t enough to compensate.
Rock Bottom by Sintua Silina attempted to reproduce the experience of clinical depression. Surprisingly I found myself very interested in a piece which I thought finally failed. This interest came because it failed through making a series of very difficult, possibly brave, choices which are very common, especially for younger artists. It felt like I was watching a piece which consciously or not, set up a list of the most difficult, perhaps insurmountable, challenges. The theme was clearly autobiographical which raises the difficulty of judging where and how imagination and distancing needs to arise from intensely personal commitment. The audience were seated in the round raising the question of managing the role of the audience members as a presence in the piece for other audience members. There was video projection and the problems of integrating a second visual medium which has a very different grammar and dynamic. The theme of depression, with its core elements of stuckness, intensely private subjectivity and inability to change is by nature a hard one to deal with in movement and dance. The performers were clearly from a contemporary dance background and seemed very young for dealing with this subject matter and complexity of conception. The music was composed for the piece and raised questions of the complex relationship between music, design, movement and theatrical image.
Imagine There’s a Fish by Sigrid Savi was surreal, humorous, clever and theatrically and compositionally sophisticated. It made a sharply focused attack on the habits and absurdities of contemporary dance practice. I agreed with everything it said. But I came away with a bad taste in my mouth. For me it seemed, perhaps unintentionally, cynical. I wanted to ask what the artist was going to do now she had broken everything, and to point out that “breaking things” is generally a lot easier than putting them back together again or creating some new possibility.
Blank Spots by Lukas Karvelis from Lithuania was a work which stayed within the limits of expressive, personal, contemporary dance theatre. It had the limits of that approach though there was a level of quite extreme movement ability, within a limited range. I found the piece hard to follow as for me the music was far too loud (to the point of pain) and the intense sudden flashes of light along with a lot of stage mist put me on the verge of a migraine. It seemed like the rest of the audience coped with that better than me.
Bolero – Extended by Seiko Dance Co from Lithuania (in collaboration with Granhoi Dans from Denmark) which took as its basis a musical interpretation of Ravel’s Bolero for eight cellists, eight dancers and a stage manager, had lots of great structural and conceptual ideas in it: An imaginative and amusing way of getting people on and off stage, clever use of stage objects and a satisfying structural development over the time of the piece. There was also a really wonderful improvisation on the bolero theme by the main cellist which showed a really strong understanding of the music and the theatrical context. The central movement idea of “Obstruction Technique” (introduced in the programme notes) had potential but, frustratingly I felt it really didn’t go anywhere very interesting. It was as if the concepts and the ideas had completely trumped the actual development of interesting and layered movement material both at the level of the solo material of each dancer and at the level of the development of the potential for depth and subtlety in the “obstruction” processes.
Fluids by Wauhaus from Estonia did something special by covering a white dance floor with extremely slippery slime to create limits and challenges for the dancers. It was a lovely starting point (I wish it had been my idea!) and the restraint of the performers at the beginning really allowed a sort of organic and slow rhythm of development which worked wonderfully for about twenty minutes. The restricted use of music, which only appeared a couple of times in the 50 minute show, was also a really good choice. After this the restraint seemed to be a forced issue, perhaps a directorial instruction, which eventually restricted rather than enhanced the inherent humour and vulnerability in the piece and left me focusing on the technology and technique of the work when what I really wanted was for the performers to finally be allowed to play rather than just create images, however amusing most of them were. I did really enjoy the performance though and when the dancers took their curtain call they finally relaxed and interacted in a much more free and fluid and playful way and I was allowed, at that point, to resonate with the pleasures and challenges of their experience of the slippery circumstances.
No generalisation about the pieces I saw (both the pitched works and those that were fully produced) would be truly accurate, but it did seem clear that the work tended toward a strong focus on the use of symbolic gesture and repetition as choreographic devices. The exploration and development of detailed sensitivity to the parameters of poetic movement (phrasing, rhythm, pulse, metre, tonus, proximity, vertical and horizontal space) was not a main concern. I think this is characteristic of much of what is called “contemporary dance” these days, but it seemed quite extreme in this context. The work was often explicitly interdisciplinary and the depth and sophistication of the engagement with the parameters of music, text, object, theatre and light seemed much greater than that with the movement itself. I ended up wondering if people don’t like to dance, don’t feel they are allowed to or just don’t have the “tools and methods” for creating in a way that focuses fundamentally on movement as a material rather than as an instrument.
Mostly though, I just feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to experience the work of so many artists who work with such good will and bravery. That is always a pleasure and trumps every doubt and criticism.
I have no idea how to do that thing they call networking. I seem to prefer to spend my time enjoying watching other people do networking things or having lengthy and intense discussions with one or two people. I’ve kind of accepted that I’m not “native” to the conference, exchange, networking scene and embraced my alien nature! So I had lots of really strong and lengthy exchanges with various people; young presenting artists, older visiting artists, producers and festival directors. The themes of these “chats” ranged widely and included; the dangers of the “next young star” international co-production and commissioning pattern; comparisons of the developmental stage of contemporary dance in the Baltic region now and the situation in Ireland in the late nineties-early two thousands when Ursula Laeubli and I were strongly involved with the exchanges among artists focused around Mary Brady’s time at Firkin Crane ; the experience of one’s “voice” being casually ignored in “networking contexts” because of coming from a poor, peripheral, EU country rather than one of the “big player” countries; training practices for dancers in “the academy” and outside it; instrumentalism/therapy/art.
I learned a lot and got such a rich variety of impressions of the textures with which people approach their work as well as interesting reflections on things we had seen together and the broad political weather we all, to some extent, share. With regard to that I was very touched by the remarkable number of people who, when they realised I was from Derry in Northern Ireland, showed a nuanced, compassionate and concerned understanding of the Brexit issue and the way it may affect Ireland in general and Northern Ireland in particular. In some way this reinforced my experience as being “of” both Ireland and Europe as well as “from” the United Kingdom. It made me hopeful but also more fearful for what may be gradually lost for those of us whose lives and work are being negatively affected by the playing out of the end times of a centuries-long phase of British history.
Because I was in one of those “deep discussions” I missed the group photo. But here it is with everyone except me and the person I was talking too.
You can find beautiful pictures of Vilnius easily so I won’t upload my own poor panoramic efforts taken from the historic fortified hill in the city centre.
But here are two pictures of gluten free desserts. Respectively 8.5 and 8 out of ten! These are not the only reason I found Vilnius a lovely town… but they helped.
I send a huge thank you to festival director Gintarė Masteikaitė – such a nice and impressive person – I can learn a lot from her abilities in running a festival far more demanding than the Echo Echo one without getting seriously overcooked – and all her team.
I send, again, a big thank-you to the people at Dance Ireland who invited me to “fill a gap”.
Echo Echo was very pleased to welcome Elsa Mourlam and Sonia Borkowicz of Collectiv B’ back to our home studios in Derry recently after their performance in the Short Works at Echo Echo Festival of Dance and Movement 2016. Delighted to receive this beautiful feedback from the company…
Elsa here. I would like to share with you a few words about the one week residency we had in January 2019, Sonia and I, at your place Echo Echo Dance Theatre:
We came at a particular moment, when it was about to welcome a new year… full of things that never were. And for this swing of novelty, we couldn’t wish a better impulse than to savour a time by your side. Such a pleasure to go with your flow, to embrace spontaneity and to welcome the unknown, heartily.
Having as much as freedom than of being warmly cared, allowed us to dive into a reflective approach – we took a time to observe our ways of being within our Ensemble and to listen the relation in between our feelings and our needs. To support this process, we let ourselves absorb by the steam of your cups of tea and got inspired by the beat of your dunking biscuits. So, we shared delectable stories and exchanged mellifluous ideas that made our thoughts groove.
And, when we got in touch with your creative process it toned up our hearts. It was lovely to hear a different song about time and to explore a variety of its textures. The experience applied to all our senses and caught us in our own becoming.
When we left Echo Echo we felt moved, but in tune.
Echo Echo welcomes residency proposals from artists based locally, nationally and internationally. Please contact us by email: info [at] echoechodance.com.
We are happy to assist with letters of invitation or help with visa applications and accommodation suggestions.
Echo Echo Studios Residency Programme receives a high number of proposals and resources are limited therefore priority may be given to artists who have expressed an interest through the Echo Echo Festival Open Call Programme.
Echo Echo Ensemble Artists Tonya Sheina and Zoe Ramsey recently collaborated with Elma Orkestra and Ryan Vail on their new music video Arrival – the second single from the duo’s innovative Borders album.
‘Arrival’ is taken from ‘BORDERS’, the forthcoming album from Elma Orkestra & Ryan Vail (released via Quiet Arch, 14th June 2019) Special thanks to: Roco Hair, Ronan Stewart, Zoe Ramsey, Antonina Sheina and Echo Echo Dance Theatre. Video directed by Elma Orkestra & Ryan Vail. Filmed and edited by Eoin O’Callaghan.
A middle-aged man is performing gracious movements on piano notes… As a spectator, you stare in awe. And then, this middle-aged man is having a discourse about dance, explaining with words our actual experience of perceiving his dancing.
‘How to Watch Dancing’ is a complex and intellectual one-man show performed by the choreographer Stephen Batts presented for the first time during the Contact Improvisation Festival in Bucharest.
‘How to Watch Dancing’ is a heartfelt philosophical performance about dance. I called it a ‘dialectic of dance’ and of dance practices, a show performed with so much grace which struck me and left me meditative for a long time after I saw the performance and participated at the workshop held by Stephen Batts, during the Festival.
Stephen Batts developed this concept of ‘poetic movement’ offering the necessary tools of perceiving dance. We all wonder – What is actually dance? What is a good dancing? Who owns the dance?
‘How to Watch Dancing’ is for everyone: for the contemporary dance spectators and for the dancers themselves because it answers to all those questions in an incredible way. It’s surprising to see the moment of a dance dissect with a surgical precision. And I remained with this impression that Stephen Batts is a dancer, a choreographer, a philosopher and also a ‘surgeon’. His show ‘How to Watch Dancing’ is doing the almost impossible act of dissecting the dancing moment in a poetical way. What are we looking for that is not a tangible shape, but a complex manifestation of a performative body, developed in time and space?
Contrary to the elusive ways of poetry… this show and the whole philosophy of dance developed by Batts, brings the so much needed clarity for the one concerned with dance as an experience. And surprisingly, the poetic feeling is kept during the actual dance: grace, sensitivity, connection and the usage of the performative space and time.
In a chaotic world who captured in its spider web the natural act of connecting with our bodies, this show became a symbolic space of reclaiming. Dance is ours! Dance belongs to the people. It’s not only the perfect shaped ballet dancer who owns the dance, it’s also the middle-aged man who owns the dance, it’s also the lady from the public who has the courage to accept the invitation and walk in to the stage, dance is ours, it belongs to everyone. But only if you understand how to express properly: ‘harmonic of skin, border, close, level two, border of level two and level one, level five… harmonic of skin… addressing level five, addressing level one’. In this way, ‘How to Watch Dancing’ is a show that teaches you the quality and the poetry of a performative movement. And when you understand, this is the real moment when you finally own dancing.
This dialectic of ‘poetic movement’ is, in fact, a whole theory about falling (again) in love with… dance!
Echo Echo regularly hosts student placements, interns and volunteers from a variety of programmes, schools and institutions including Ulster University, North West Regional College, Letterkenny Institute of Technology, Belfast Met, St Cecilia’s College and St Mary’s College to name but a few.
For the last fifteen years students from the University of Merseburg in Germany have been visiting Derry to work with Echo Echo in a wide variety of contexts and to live in the city. Past interns include Lena Weber, Sara Ertel, Vivian Brock, Dana Mai and Anna Dietrich all of whom have been exceptional colleagues in many ways.
Echo Echo’s latest visitor from the University of Merseburg is Freeda Gronowski and it has been an absolute pleasure to welcome her to the company. Freeda immediately immersed herself in Echo Echo Festival of Dance and Movement last November and joined the company on tour of Ireland in December for its production of Lost in Frost.
Freeda recently created the publicity materials for Echo Echo Contact Improvisation Festival and has been ably supporting an array of technical and administrative tasks in the company. We are very grateful for her support.
Here are a few words from Freeda and a selection of wonderful images she made on the Lost in Frost tour…
About four months ago, I decided I needed a new adventure. I cannot really explain what sent me on my trip to Northern Ireland, so many factors came together and created the opportunity for me to take my next steps. It all seemed so easy and felt natural. I longed for a country that I could discover on my own, my own way, without reading a guide or walking in the footsteps of others, everything to my taste and my pace.
For a total of five months, I would take the time to experience Irish culture, to fulfil my goals and hopefully become fluent in the English language someday. I longed to be free from everything and everyone, to do something for me. I wanted to get to know myself better, discover my strengths for myself and work with them.
I study culture and media education in Merseburg, Germany. I am now in the fifth semester, this is a practical semester. Our assignment was to collect practical experience for a certain number of hours, the subject was left up to ourselves, so I had the freedom to choose whatever and wherever I desired. From the field of educational work, music, theatre, film, photography, management, or radio, everything is possible.
A fellow student from my university had undertaken her internship here at Echo Echo in the previous year. I met her after her time at Echo Echo, we spoke briefly and she told me all about Derry and the theatre. This was enough to convince me that Echo Echo could be just right for me.
And now I’m here in Derry, and the experience so far has been wonderful. This city of around 80,000 inhabitants in Northern Ireland has already captivated me after such a short time.
In the early evening, the pubs are filled with local people and travelers alike, they drink fresh draught Guinness and listen to traditional Irish music live. The mood in the city makes me experience the winter and its beauty in a special way. The hilly landscapes in and around Londonderry elicits a feeling of serenity and security.
During the first two weeks of my time in the theater, I was fortunate enough to experience Echo Echo during the Festival of Dance and Movement. This was the perfect opportunity to get to know the theatre and experience the city in a unique environment. Echo Echo is the first dance Theatre I have worked with, I was not sure what I could expect, how is this theatre different to a dance theatre?
While attending the Festival I had a realisation of what dance theatre could mean to me, dancing and movements allows more space for interpretation, there is no wrong or right way to view a performance, to understand the complexities of the movements. Dance includes everyone, you do not need an in-depth knowledge of the art to be able to appreciate the performance, just go and get inspired. I’ve got my one way of seeing, hearing and feeling a performance, we all do.
I am learning a lot about patience, taking on new responsibilities and working as part of a team. This has all been made possible because of the amazing team I’m working with here at Echo Echo. We are a small team here at the theatre, more like a family, working collectively and coherently with each other, everyone is appreciated and inspired. I am excited about the rest of my time here, because I know I have a great team of friends, who I can talk to about everything and ask any questions that concern me.
I have learned so much from my experiences here and I am excited for the future. I now enjoy the English language, especially with the Irish dialect which is spoken here. Initially I had issues understanding the English language with this particular dialect, but throughout my time here I have developed an understanding of the language of the locals here in Derry.
My conclusion so far – I have found a great internship in a beautiful country and I am looking forward to the future.
Patience is the gift that comes when the time is right.
All images by Freeda Gronowski from Lost in Frost tour 2018
It’s difficult to believe but Echo Echo’s Technical Manager and all round audio, lighting and design wizard, Barry Davis, has a five-year work anniversary this week!
Barry joined Echo Echo during our first year based in our new home studios in Waterloo House back in January 2014 with the support of the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. Since then Barry has become central to nearly all of Echo Echo’s artistic projects and programming – from lighting design for Echo Echo productions The Cove, Lost in Frost and Walk By (to name but a few) – and supporting all of the various audio-visual and technical requirements of several hundred visiting artists and companies from around the world at Echo Echo Festival of Dance and Movement.
In addition to this, Barry co-produces and supports the ongoing music, residency and hire programmes at Echo Echo Studios in a wide variety of ways – lighting and sound requirements, PR design, sourcing equipment and materials, and providing last minute technical troubleshooting. Barry also oversees a range of vital operational tasks behind the scenes at Echo Echo from risk assessments to building maintenance, and video editing to IT troubleshooting. It’s fair to say we couldn’t manage without him.
But don’t take our word for it! Here are a few recent comments from visiting artists to Echo Echo Studios…
“The tech team was wonderful and very professional.”
“The technical support we received was great – Barry answered any questions we had right away, and fixed any issues we encountered. “
“Barry was brilliant. He asked way in advance about all our tech needs and knew everything off by heart when we got there. Perfect queues. Nice lighting. We loved performing in that space.”