A few days ago I had a very interesting chat with Marty Coyle and Zoe Ramsey about their project which led to the music and dance video released last Thursday 5th November. I didn’t know any of the details of the project and the more I asked the more fascinating it got.
To begin with they were quite restrained in what they had to say but when I probed I discovered such depths in the background and process that they had gone through together and which explain the beautiful and touching quality of the music, dance and video.
Marty’s band Basork had played a concert for the closing party of the 2018 Echo Echo Festival of Dance and Movement. It was a great gig and the festival attendees and participants, including Zoe, fearlessly danced their hearts out to the relatively unusual rhythms and melodies of Basork’s strongly Balkan influenced music. Watching from the stage was when the idea came to him of a collaboration with a dance artist.
The idea settled and germinated and was in development towards a live performance when Covid 19 struck. Like many other projects it moved ‘online’ and became focused on the creation of a dance-music video with an original music composition and newly created dance.
Marty and Zoe’s basic idea was to develop a piece of music and dance at the same time using a traditional Bulgarian dance rhythm as a primary source. They told me that they wanted to keep a respectful attitude to the source material but not be totally bound by the tradition as they developed their new work.
Marty has a very deep background in Bulgarian folk music and has been researching and playing the music with exceptional musicians from the region for years. He chose a particular Bulgarian dance rhythm called a Paidushko as the starting point for the research and development. The Paidushko rhythm is in 5/8 time and, traditionally, has a particular dance step pattern associated with it which, until recent years has been exclusively danced by men.
Zoe was new to the Bulgarian tradition of dance and she told me it was a challenge to begin to learn the step by watching dances and instruction videos on the internet and getting to know a bit about the background folk tradition associated with the dance. She said that to begin with the rhythm, which can feel unusual to a western European, was challenging but that as she relaxed into it and understood it better she came to love it.
Once she’d got the basic pattern of the step she and Marty began to exchange videos and sound recordings, layering and feeding back to each other. Keeping it virtual as is the habit of the Covid days we live in.
The music began with just a rhythm track and as the exchanges progressed layers of melody and harmony were added as Marty watched the dance develop. Zoe listened to the developing music and deepened the dance material in response, extending away from the original step patterns into extended improvisation.
The whole project had new elements for both artists. The project was designed for an entirely online collaboration. Something that was new to both. This was Marty’s first creative collaboration with a dance artist and he said that he was pretty nervous to begin with. He told me he was quite surprised by the degree of discipline and rigour in Zoe’s practice as a movement artist. It was Zoe’s first extended exploration of elements of a folk dance tradition and she was concerned to be respectful to the tradition and to honour it properly as the source.
After the video was completed and sent for comments to Marty’s Bulgarian colleagues, they were really happy to get the feedback that the substantial parts of the dance in the video where Zoe sticks closely to the original step are accurately done and well performed!
Echo Echo Artistic Director
Music by Basork and Dragni Dragnev
Dancer Zoe Ramsey
Lighting and Technical Support Barry Davis
Mixed and Mastered by Marc Forbes
Filmed by Fiachra O’Longain
Special thanks to Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Echo Echo Dance Theatre Company and Modal Citizen Records
Music from the track is available from 5th November 2020 on all popular digital outlets via Modal Citizen Records.