‘In Our Nature’ at Echo Echo Festival of Dance and Movement 2023
An exhibition of contemporary paintings from Dublin to the North-West at Derry’s newest and most historic Visual Arts Space.
Echo Echo Dance Theatre has recently repurposed its foyer and theatre stairwell into a space for artists to exhibit their work. This is a new and vibrant exhibition space for artists in the city of Derry while also presenting work by artists from around the world.
Their recent exhibition of A5 works on paper showcased over 45 artists from the North-West of Ireland alongside artists from Illinois to India. Their New Associate Artist, Sinéad Smyth, will be programming and curating visual art events in the space for the coming year.
The upcoming exhibition ‘In Our Nature’, combines the works of Dublin based artist, Jacinta O’Reilly and North-West based artist, Sash Ka Sheils.
In speaking about the work of these artists, curator Sinéad Smyth highlighted why she felt compelled to draw these two artists together:
“The works of both artists intrigue my sense of remembered ideas and information, giving a possible visual pattern of how I might imagine stored ideas, or where our ideas go in the brain. The ebb and flow of recollection and the potential for pattern in processes for remembering, perhaps in a kinetic, sensory mnemonic pattern.”
The exhibition ‘In Our Nature’ Opens on Friday 27th January at 7pm at Echo Echo Studios Gallery in Magazine Street, Derry. The artists will be in attendance. The exhibition continues until Saturday 11th February and is free and open to all.
A Special Lunchtime Talk with the artists, curator and Artistic Director of Echo Echo, Stephen Batts, will take place at 1pm on Wednesday 1st February at the Echo Echo Studios Gallery. This is a free event and open to all.
About the artists
Jacinta is strongly influenced by abstract expressionists and the spontaneity of their process. I enjoy using mixed media and layering drawings with various geometric shapes. It is the repetition of the shape that is important, so it becomes impossible to tell the beginning or the end of the drawing. I use the intensity of circles or triangles to compose an image giving an illusion of infinity. I am mindful of preserving a natural flow when I draw so that each component is considered but not deliberate. It is the wondrous and magnificent patterning of shapes and colours in nature that inspires my work.
Sash Ka Sheils
Sash Ka is based in the North-West of Ireland. Her interest in art has come about through her desire to express that which is not meant to be expressed through words. Through her love of philosophy, her extensive work in the field of Occupational Therapy and Psychotherapy, and her formidable drive to be free to sculpt her own choices and her own destiny, Sash Ka has cultivated a bold uncompromising style.
Echo Echo has a long history of being involved in the Derry Halloween festival over the last two decades. We’ve worked with a range of artistic and community partners to provide high quality artist-led experiences including major projects with LUXe – on some of their incredible landscape theatre installations and processions such as Awakening The Walls; with In Your Space Circus – most recently on the Murder of Crows performance in The Forest of Shadows aka St Columb’s Park in 2021; the Talking Heads installation by Barry Davis at Artillery Bastion in 2019; with TG4 and BBC on Samhain Live TV concert broadcasts in 2018 produced by Gifted Empire; presenting new theatre work with otherworldly themes Ghosts and Legends of the Coven by Gemma Walker-Farren and Abby Oliveira also in 2018; with Derry Halloween festival stalwarts North West Carnival Initiative over the years; as well as many other projects such as Halloween themed discos and kids classes.
For several years the idea of using Echo Echo’s home studios at Waterloo House for a Halloween production has been developed to various levels of detail but wasn’t quite possible, usually for financial reasons. This year in 2022 the company collectively decided to take a big risk with creating a new Halloween-themed production that would blend the team’s different expertise in movement theatre, choreography, performance, sound design, lighting and video projection mapping, along with the unique setting of Echo Echo Studios and its resources. An original co-creation between Echo Echo Ensemble Artists – Ayesha Mailey, Kelly Quigley, Zoe Ramsey, Tonya Sheina – and Echo Echo Technical Manager – Barry Davis – was conceived, developed, produced and presented.
The Experiment – a blood chilling sensory experience was very much an experiment for all involved and we are delighted to report that it was a great success and a complete sell-out with 32 shows over 4 nights all fully booked in advance. A big thank you to everyone who came along to watch and participate as test subjects – it was great to see so many happy and scared faces leaving the building!
There was a large behind-the scenes effort to make The Experiment happen:
Special thanks to The Experiment Co-Directors Zoe Ramsey and Barry Davis for their dedication to all aspects of the production over many months.
A big thank you to Echo Echo Ensemble performers Ayesha Mailey, Kelly Quigley and Tonya Sheina for their ever-constant commitment; as well as our current intern from University of Limerick, Liberty Rose, who took part in all 32 performances.
Thanks very much to the team of volunteers who performed and supported including Marcella Di Palo, Paul Nicholl, Maddie Nicholl, Cara McGeehan, Charlie Dobbin, Tommy Capper, Mia McGettigan, Mia Doherty and Ella Hawkins.
A big thank you to the front of house team Anna Nolan, Leeann Toland, Karen Cassidy and Deirdre Gillespie.
Special thanks to Terence McDowell – Principal of St. Eithne’s Primary School, to The Playhouse, and to Jes McSparron for their invaluable support.
Thanks to the Festivals and Events Team at Derry City and Strabane District Council and Derry Halloween for all of their support, and special mentions for Jacqueline Whoriskey, Orlaith Meenan and Ailish McDaid – and to all of the other staff across Council who support Echo Echo throughout the year.
Thanks to Echo Echo’s principal funder Arts Council of Northern Ireland for its ongoing annual support, and also an acknowledgement of the Arts Council NI Health & Safety Capital Programme which enabled outdoor equipment purchase for use on this event.
If you have any feedback or suggestions on The Experiment please comment below or get in touch.
Thanks to Liberty Rose for the behind-the-scenes photos, and to Barry Davis for The Experiment promotional artwork.
Echo Echo is pleased to be hosting an internship by Liberty Rose from University of Limerick through autumn 2022. This is Liberty’s review of the recent Echo Echo Festival Presents Tradition and Beyond events in Derry in September:
From the 14th to the 18th of September, the Tradition and Beyond Festival took place in Echo Echo Studios and Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin. The festival included workshops and performances by Joanne Barry and Anne O’Donnell from Siamsa Tiré – the National Folk Theatre of Ireland, Kristyn Fontanella, Aneta Dortová, Sarah Fennell, Laura Lundy, and musicians Moya Sweeney, William Troy, and band Áirc Damhsa. An opening of an exhibition of landscape painting curated by Sinéad Smyth was also launched as part of the festival, with a series of paintings by Peadar McDaid, Josephine Kelly and Paul Murray. To end the festival, a round table discussion was held where everyone who took part; teachers, performers, audience, were invited to discuss and reflect on the place of Tradition in Dance in a modern-day context, drawing from personal experience.
As part of my residency/internship at Echo Echo, I was invited to take part in all the workshops, to attend the exhibition and performances. I am delighted to have had the opportunity to be involved in a such a diverse professional and community arts event.
Airc Damhsa’s performance
I am currently studying contemporary dance, so the focus on footwork in this festival was a welcome change. The purpose of the movement, although inherently visual, was to create a rhythm. When watching members of Áirc Damhsa dance, I had the sensation that I was watching them play music instead of dance. As an audience, we watched their full bodily engagement, whilst the dancers’ own focus lay on the movement of their feet and the sound this created. It was like watching the hammers inside a piano hit the strings, whilst the pianist plays the keys.
Aneta Dortová and William Troy
Aneta Dortová brought a very contemporary approach to traditional percussive dance. In her workshop, she encouraged participants to use the entirety of their feet when dancing, and to notice how this affected the movement of their whole bodies. What I noticed was how slight changes in the placement of the weight on my feet affected my stance, and way of moving. In fact, it affected the way I was feeling! I learnt how the part of my foot that I bear weight on encourages me to move in different ways and made particular steps easier or harder to achieve. I am usually quite oblivious to what is happening in my feet and am now encouraged to explore it further. When watching Aneta’s performance with live music from William Troy, I was entranced by the fast and fluid shifts that she made from the floor to standing, sometimes working with, and sometimes working against the articulation of her feet. On occasion she let her head lead her and allowed her feet to follow. I enjoyed being transported to the weird and wonderful world of this performance, never being sure of what would come next.
Joanne Barry and Anne O’Donnell
Joanne Barry and Anne O’Donnell from Siamsa Tiré shared some movements from their traditional Munnix dance style. In contrast to the other workshops, they were very specific about the way in which the steps were done. It was important to pass on the details of the movements, and their history. I liked how their performance involved a lot of storytelling. Although some scenes were elaborate and larger than life, they maintained their personal relationship with the audience. Despite the heightened reality of the performance the intimacy with the viewer was retained. When they told their stories of joining Siamsa, it felt as if we had all been there with them.
Sarah Fennell and Laura Lundy
Sarah Fennell and Laura Lundy’s workshop was energetic. They brought a modern twist to the traditional steps. They started with a cardio warm up and invited the participants through structured improvisation tasks around some steps from their performance. I found their one-two-three performance very humorous. I like the idea that Steve mentioned that dancers are pure clowns: ‘this is how things work in my world, come with me.’ Both in workshop and performance, Sarah and Laura worked with music that was not traditionally composed for Irish dance. This produced a way of stepping which resembled the styles of percussive dance which stem from West African Step Dance and tap dance. It was very captivating to observe how they juxtaposed a percussive step over an existing rhythm so that they complemented each other perfectly.
Kristyn Fontanella and Moya Sweeney
Kristyn Fontanella started her class with a gentle full body warm up. She taught participants some repertoire choreography, explaining a little about its origins. This was my favourite class. Although the focus was still on the footwork, the movements were loose and facilitated us to change directions and travel through the space. Her teaching style allowed for a lot of freedom to interpret her choreography in our own way. I liked how she used images and analogies to explain the intention behind her movements. We also had a nice discussion afterward about the use of sound-making as a choreographic score. She spoke about how her teachers would send her voice recordings explaining the steps she needed to practice, and how this reminded her of lilting; an Irish singing style which often accompanied dancing when there were no instruments around. Her performance was more like a shared performative research alongside musician Moya Sweeney. This made her the narrator of the story. I liked how she incorporated video projections of her dancing in different parts of the world.
Thanks to the nature of this festival, I felt I got to know everyone involved, including the performers. This made the performances feel like more of a shared experience. It allowed me to connect and engage on many levels during the performances.
The Round-table Discussion
During the discussion we spoke about how tradition can act as both a strong foundation/support and a burden. There was a powerful image I remember from the Siamsa Tire performance, where Anne was laden down with items that were part of the traditions she was a part of; spades, straw garments, baskets, etc. Personally, I thought about how I felt somehow isolated when being introduced to these people who had strong support networks rooted in traditions and folk, as I had not grown up within these close circles. A few other people voiced similar experiences of arriving as an outsider into communities/places where music and dance tradition played a big part within that community and experiencing a sense of exclusion. In contrast, what I enjoyed most about this festival was that I felt welcomed into these traditions. Traditions that I had previously felt I couldn’t be a part of. Here traditions were being purposely shared to newcomers, so that they could be passed onto others and remembered for generations to come. One perspective we spoke about was how traditions need to adapt and evolve with the current times we live in if they are to remain relevant. By maintaining them exactly as they were, they lose their relevance to our daily lives and become historic relics of the past. I like the idea that the way in which dances and music were made can be preserved and remembered in their original form, but also challenged, modified and transformed in a modern setting, to tell the stories of today.
The ‘Landscape’ Exhibition
In addition to the dance performances and workshops, the festival included a visual art component. The ‘Landscape’ exhibition, which hung in the Echo Echo studios, exhibited the work of three artists, each with very different approaches to painting the landscape around the northwest. One artist used pixelated squares, another printed excerpts of local poetry, and another broad sweeping strokes in deep colours which emphasised the landscape in motion. What I did not previously know is that there is a strong tradition in Ireland of landscape painting, its origins dating back to Ancient Greek and Roman times. I learnt that the landscape paintings have gone through a similar process as dance and music traditions; Their prevalence declined and only began to re-emerge in the 16th century, gaining popularity in the 18th century. The tradition of landscape painting marries well with the contemporary approach to tradition that this festival takes.
Landscape exhibition artworks by Josephine Kelly, Peadar McDaid and Paul Murray – images by Simon Alleyne
After attending this festival, I feel inspired to explore traditions in music and dance and discover how I can incorporate them into my dance practice. I drew inspiration from one young participant in the festival, who shared her new game; this involved taking a step from different dances that she saw and putting them together in her own way to make a completely new dance! For me, this sums up beautifully the importance of festivals like this, and the way in which traditions and folk can be preserved and nurtured to evolve into the future.
Echo Echo Festival Presents Tradition and Beyond was supported by the Department of Tourism Culture Arts Gaeltacht Sport and Media (Ireland), Echo Echo’s Principal Funder the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, and Derry City and Strabane District Council. It was produced in partnership with Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin and Siamsa Tíre.
Over the last few months Echo Echo has made an extensive range of improvements to accessibility at our home studios at Magazine Street on Derry’s historic City Walls following an independent access audit. The project was kindly supported by Derry City and Strabane District Council through the Department for Communities Regional Access and Inclusion Fund.
Our upstairs and downstairs accessible toilets have been reconfigured to better suit the needs of people with disabilities. Works include – addition of full length mirrors, soap dispensers, paper towel dispensers, shelves and door operating instructions. Sinks have been lowered and moved closer to toilet basins with taps repositioned. Support rails, emergency alarm pull cords and reset panels have been relocated to be within the recommended distance from sanitary facilities.
High contrast wayfinder signage and individual room signage have been designed and added throughout the building.
An extra handrail has been manufactured and added to the staircase leading to the theatre for added safety on the stairs.
A baby changer unit has been permanently installed in our downstairs WC.
A new lift has been installed restoring full accessibility to all floors of the building.
Both of our studios have been fitted with permanent hearing enhancement systems as well as signage advising of its presence. Our front door entry speaker system has had a hearing loop installed and we also have a portable hearing loop for box office and small meeting settings.
We have upgraded our means of escape provisions by procuring an evacuation chair for travel up and down stairs as well as providing training for staff and ensemble on the use of the chair.
All doors have had their opening and closing forces adjusted to the recommended forces.
Sanitary ware in WCs have had their tonal contrasts increased where required to aid people with restricted visibility.
A selection of seating with and without armrests has been obtained for our theatre.
Thermostatic mixing valves have been adjusted in all WCs and kitchen to ensure water temperature does not exceed recommended safety levels.
WC door opening/closing signage upgraded.
A non-slip all weather mat installed inside front door.
Tactile stair nosing has been added throughout the building for added safety on stairs.
Echo Echo Studios was previously awarded a ‘Change A Little Change A Lot’ Silver Standard Accessibility Award a few years ago so we hope that these extensive further improvements will make the centre fully accessible to all of our audiences, participants, colleagues and visitors as we begin to re-open in the coming weeks and months.
Access improvements will remain an ongoing process and we will continue to work with our broad range of users to ensure the building is as inclusive and accessible as possible.
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.
The Open Call programme has been a highlight of Echo Echo Festival over the last few years with over 600 applicants from all around the world and 45 short works programmed.
Many artists have connected with Echo Echo for the first time through the Open Call and have built ongoing creative relationships with us, showing full works at later editions of the Festival, or returning to Echo Echo Studios as artists-in-residence.
Echo Echo Festival Open Call Artists from 2014-18 included:
Ferenc Fehér and Dávid Mikó; Sahar Damoni; Hwa Wei-An; Julianne Chapple and Maxine Chadburn; Rikilikemagic (Rachel Sheil); Susan Koper; Look, but with love (Suahee Abro and Lucia Moretti); Linda Fearon, Cinzia Savonitti & Helen Hall of Luminous Soul; Zoe Ui Fhaolain; Nasrine Kheltent; Inna Aslamova; Hilde Ingeborg Sandvold; Anastasia Brouzioti and Yiannis Tsigkris of Alma Libre; Lior Lazarof, Timea Laza and Sharon Barbakov; Bjorn Richter of RichterMeyerMarx; Hannah Rogerson and Pieter Visser of Tea Time Company; Siobhán Ní Dhuinnín and Isabella Oberlander; Collective B, Sonia Borkowicz, Elsa Mourlam, Izabela Soldaty, Vilte Svarplyte; Sarah Herr and Meret Rufener; Nicola Cisternino; Circul’R, David Phiphak, Berenice Dupuis; Sabrina Gargano and Verena Schneider; Aoife Toner; Gary Rowntree, Ryan O’Neill, Catherine Muckle; My Johansson; Erin O’Reilly, Sophie Ammann and Roseanne Briens of Junebug Company; Rachel Sheil; Jusztina Hermann and Robert Peoples of Delighters; Yukiko Masui; Jann Gallois; Mel Bradley and Zoe Ramsey; Helga Deasy; Nastasja Stefanic and company; Sorcha Shanahan; Alba Lorca; Alessandro Sollima; Jessica Peoples and ZoNa Dance Company; Maria Papathanasiou; Ronan Kearney; Claire Bonnie; Argyro Tsampazi; Lily Akerman; Oona Doherty; Sara Campinoti; Sibéal Davitt and Olwyn Lyons; Valeria Famularo; Carie Logue and NWRC Dance.
With thanks to all of the past Festival Open Call artists and their colleagues, collaborators and supporters!
Selection of images from previous editions
Julianne Chapple and Maxine Chadburn (Canada)
Luminous Soul (NI)
Look But With Love (Pakistan/Italy)
Rachel Sheil (Ireland)
Susan Koper (USA)
Hwa Wei-An (Malaysia)
Sahar Damoni (Palestine)
Ferenc Feher and David Miko (Hungary)
Hilde Ingeborg Sandvold
Bjorn Richter of RichterMeyerMarx
Anastasia Brouzioti and Yiannis Tsigkris of Alma Libre
Hannah Rogerson and Pieter Visser of Tea Time Company
Timea Laza and Sharon Barbakov choreographed by Lior Lazarof,
Siobhán Ní Dhuinnín and Isabella Oberlander
Collective B (Austria)
Berenice and Laos (France/Canada)
Catherine Muckle and Ryan O’Neill in Courtship by Gary Rowntree (NI)
Sarah Herr and Meret Rufener (Germany/Switzerland)
My Johansson (Sweden/London)
Nicola Cisternino (Italy)
Aoife Toner (Ireland)
Sabrina Gargano and Verena Schneider (Italy/Germany)
Jusztina Hermann & Robert Peoples
Nastasja Stefanic and company
Mel Bradley & Zoe Ramsey
NWRC Dance by Carie Logue (NI)
Alba Lorca (Spain/Dublin)
Olwyn Lyons and Sibéal Davitt (Ireland)
Lily Akerman (USA)
Sara Campinoti (Italy)
Valeria Famularo (Italy/London)
Maria Papathanasiou (Greece)
Sorcha Shanahan (NI)
ZoNa Dance and Jessica Peoples (Ireland)
Ronan Kearney, Dave Stevenson and Colin Norrby (NI)
Janie Doherty and Zoe Ramsey (NI)
Argyro Tsampazi (Greece/NI)
Oona Doherty (NI)
Alessandro Sollima (Italy)
Images by Living Witness Photography
Echo Echo Festival of Dance and Movement is kindly supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Derry City and Strabane District Council.
New exhibition ‘Strata’ by Derry-based artist Sashka B Sheils will be among the first post Covid-19 art exhibitions in Northern Ireland when it opens on 10 August at the Alley Theatre in Strabane.
It had originally been scheduled to open on 23 March, the day lockdown began in the UK.
An artist all her life, Sashka brings a compelling story about overcoming self-doubt and battling to make your passion a part of your life – no matter what your circumstances.
Taking up painting after her children were born, it was only once they had left home that her art became her vocation.
Her story resonates with anyone who ever thought about ‘what if’.
Sashka’s first art exhibition was held in Derry at Echo Echo Studios three years ago, and since then a number of her pieces have sold for thousands of pounds. These have gone to collectors locally,and to buyers as far away as Singapore.
The work in the exhibition draws on the influence of existential philosophers, including Albert Camus, and sets out to examine the courage needed to embrace life.
Having been delayed due to coronavirus, pieces within the exhibition also reflect on the impact of the pandemic and lockdown.
Sashka B Sheils’ work is presented on large canvases, and is distinctive for its masterful and often explosive use of colour.
Sashka B Sheils:
“I can never truly know why someone purchases my work.”
“What I do know is that there seems to be a powerful quality in my art that stirs the desire to sit with a painting.”
“The person is not told what it is, what it means, or what it is meant to mean.”
“Instead the colours, the depth, and the layers may reflect back to the buyer something that resonates meaning to them in their lives.”
Strata is open from Monday 10th August to Friday 4th September 2020.
To book a viewing please contact The Alley Theatre, Strabane or visit alley-theatre.com.
Echo Echo Ensemble artists, Ayesha Mailey and Zoe Ramsey, worked with Roe Valley Arts and Cultural Centre recently to produce a series of basic movement exercises, stretches, phrases and sequences that anyone can practice in your own home or garden.
Thanks to Esther Alleyne and all the team at Roe Valley Arts for inviting us!
Have a look at the clips below and let us know how you get on!