A Busy Autumn Season coming up at Echo Echo

Benno Voorham in The Other Selves

At Echo Echo we are just beginning the first season of relative normality since 2019 and the autumn and early winter are looking very busy and exciting.

It feels like a relief to be in a slightly more predictable situation but also a big challenge to get some momentum going again, and to encourage people to attend and participate. It seems like many arts organisations have a similar experience.

Anyway, we’ve worked hard to put together a deep and inviting programme for the next few months. We hope we’ll see an enthusiastic attendance of people ready to move and be moved.

Performance Programme

The performance programme begins this weekend, Saturday10th/ Sunday 11th September with “The Other Selves” by Benno Voorham.

Benno Vorrham in The Other Selves

Benno was artist in residence at Echo Echo Studios in March 2020 when the Covid19 epidemic took off. He was just finishing the creation of “The Other Selves” and was supposed to have the full premiere performance on the 14th March. Unfortunately, in the event, he performed to an audience of five, masked, socially distanced, Echo Echo colleagues. Not ideal!

Benno has been back with us since the beginning of September to finish the project properly and he will perform on Saturday 10th and Sunday 11th at 8pm. We’ve decided to make these performances free. We want to invite everyone back in to Echo Echo Studios to help us to re-energise the space and to remember the joy and beauty of the space and the things that happen there.

Benno is a wonderful artist and performer with huge experience. He’s been a close collaborator with Echo Echo since the 1990’s and has been to Derry several times to share his work. “The Other Selves” is a poetic and touching multimedia work that looks at the vulnerabilities and fears that come with ageing. Benno’s dancing is mature, sensitive, detailed and his use of projection and music beautifully judged.

!!! It’s FREE! Please come along !!!

You can just turn up at the door. There should be plenty of space, but if possible, it would be helpful to let us know you are coming and with how many people. Send an email to info@echoechodance.com or give us a call on +44 28 71308883.

Echo Echo Festival Presents Tradition and Beyond

https://www.echoechodance.com/festival/programme-2022

Design by zoocreative

Next week, 14th – 18th September, we present “Tradition and Beyond” a short festival of dance and music by artists rooted in the Irish Dance and Music tradition and extending it in various ways. In collaboration with our partners Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin. We have artists in residence, performances, workshops a concert and a discussion “round-table”. It is such a full programme with wonderful dancers and musicians from all over Ireland as well as locals. It also includes the an exhibition of landscape paintings, by Donegal based artists, curated by Echo Echo’s new Associate Artist, Sinead Smyth. There isn’t room here to introduce everyone involved but full details are on the Echo Echo website.

https://www.echoechodance.com/festival/programme-2022

Later in the season we have more wonderful shows.

Zoe and Tonya

On Culture Night, 23rd September, Zoe Ramsey and Tonya Sheina will do multiple performances, at Echo Echo Studios of a new, typically humorous, duet “… And We All Join In”.

PORTS (SOLD OUT)

We have the fantastic Derry band PORTS playing two concerts at Echo Echo Studios on 31st Sept and 1st October but it is, unsurprisingly, already SOLD OUT. We are really happy about that and maybe they’ll come again soon. Please don’t just turn up on the night as we have strict limited numbers because of fire safety etc. If any tickets become available we’ll make it known.

Mel Bradley – For The Love Of Mary

On October 6th Echo Echo friend and collaborator, Mel Bradley presents “For The Love of Mary” a one-woman show mapping a personal fascination with the Virgin Mary and her lost humanity, rediscovered in the stories shared by women living in Ireland.

HALLOWEEN

For Halloween we have a blood chilling sensory experience, “The Experiment”, created by light/sound artist Barry Davis and the Echo Echo Ensemble.

Don Vappie Jazz Créole live in concert

On 12th November, we are collaborating with our colleagues at The Playhouse to host this fantastic concert by the Don Vappie and Jazz Creole quartet.

YASMIN MELLO – Marbleface

In late November Yasmin Mello returns to Echo Echo to complete and perform her solo piece “Marbleface” which we supported in it’s early development phase.

Yasmin Mello in Marbleface

Solo shows at Echo Echo Studios and on tour

In early December both Echo Echo Artistic Director, Steve Batts and Associate Artistic Director, Ayesha Mailey will re-mount solo works, “How To Watch Dancing” and “The Poetics of Counterpoint” before taking them on tour to the “Going Solo Together” festival in Örebro, Sweden.

Steve Batts in “How To Watch Dancing”
Ayesha Mailey

A BOX

For the Christmas season Zoe and Tonya will be remounting a “special festive edition” of “A BOX” the wonderfully funny and warm hearted clown-tango show that’s been successfully presented in Derry and on tour since 2016.

Tonya Sheina and Zoe Ramsey in A BOX (literally). Photo Simon Alleyne.

Classes at Echo Echo

Typical joy in moving at an Echo Echo class – in this case a Dance Picnic. Photo Simon Alleyne.

We offer a wide range of classes at Echo Echo Studios. There are evening dance classes for adults (beginners as well as people with experience), the Body Wisdom Project for people over 50 years, Saturday kids dance classes. We are also happy to host and support our programme of classes by guest teachers – Singing Mamas led by Anna Nolan (for mums who want to sing in a baby friendly environment), Wing Tsjun; classes for kids and for women led by Karen Cassidy, First Act Youth Theatre(for younger and older groups) led by Mary Fitzpatrick and aerial circus classes by our friends at In Your Space Circus. Find all the details on the links above.

https://www.echoechodance.com/

Please come and join us for some of these wonderful events!

Steve Batts. Artistic Director. Echo Echo Dance Theatre Company.

Feedback on Body Wisdom March April 2022 with Steve Batts

or

How Echo Echo has changed my life (for the better)

By John McCartney

John became obsessed by Echo Echo several years ago and has never recovered from the addiction. Moonlight nights find him on some Inishowen beach practising his out of phase phrases.
Body Wisdom Class spring 2022. Remi, Salinda, Liam, Maeve, John, Frank, Karen.

I have no time for the past says Eckhart Tolle, spiritual teacher. His “Power of Now” a New York Times No. 1 Best Seller is a sort of Idiot’s Guide to the teachings of the Indian mystic Ramana Maharshi. I loved it! Just what I needed from the intergalactic library.

Of memory there is the voluntary and involuntary and the latter the only one worth.

And so.

The first thing that surfaces is Steve talking about dancing and the numinous. He didn’t use that theo-philosophical buzz word of the seventies but I can see him saying dancing is a fear that isn’t fearful (very poetic) the kind that makes your hair (if you have any left) stand on your head. This fear so picturesque in my youth, The Golden Bough’s Lake of Nemi is my image of it, has been swallowed up for me in larger issues now that I’m old and thinking of ending things.

The time has come as the Walrus said to face the numinous, to accept that the last laugh is on us just as we laughed at the Jumblies heading out in their sieve to the Lakes and the Torrible Zone and the hills of the Chankly Bore. Time to channel your inner Jumbly. One way is to sing as Blake did to the last and another is to dance. And why not both. And is there a difference. Each is a hen in the Plotinian sense and bring their practitioners to point of lay. The lay of the last minstrel with a vengeance. And on the way the sensorium is sorted out with good snottery cries and weepings to the tune of the still sad music of humanity not harsh nor grating though of ample power to chasten and subdue as submission to the dance of life comes at last bringing gratitude and the realisation of abundance. The Self you sought that has always been you. Or the rub. There’s always a rub. Challenge of the dark. The fardel respectability that makes a calamity jane of so long life.

sat-chit-ananda

There was a lightness about the two classes I attended that was very beautiful. A lot of freedom in the clean clarity of their spaces. Somehow making breathing more possible. Expansive in the welkin eye. Yep it was a valde bonum creation as a creating potentiality. Composition as explanation. This is usual in Steve’s classes and it’s important for me to honour it as achievement that isn’t achievement. It’s a living creation a change to a better class of universe I have to say even though it sounds too grandiose. Just class. For the metamorphosis is into the extraordinary ordinary. The perennial philosophy of heart and home that runs like a rich vein down through the Graeco-Roman Judaeo-Christian tradition. There’s life in it and worth somehow and the sadness that it isn’t always so.

Sunt semper lacrimae rerum.

The other spot of time I’d like to memorialise is how I was surprised by aliveness. This happened in the first class I attended after the lying in zero state (always a favourite – sivasana the death asana. A sunshine state for a Quietist like myself). As I emerged from the chrysalis into first level, one of the ladies was lying with her feet pointed towards me and her body truncated in perspective seemed extraordinarily alive. As though the Mantegna Christ that I’d seen all those years ago in the Brera had suffered a resurrection and was getting ready to head off for Emmaus. Uncanny stillness of it. In the ineluctable subjective mode as in the Gospels the scales falling from the blind man’s eyes was the quidditas of this happening. Her body wasn’t moving, yet there was a sort of vibration there that felt like movement. Extraordinary revelatory apocalypse now. Numinous with the fear that isn’t a fear in its way but understated.

This visitation was one of the spots in time Wordsworth mentions as meanings like shafts of light penetrating the dark forest of his life and his immortal verse he saw then as a celebration and creative re-enactment of Nature’s Heraclitean fire as illuminating power. That and his visits to his hairdresser. For keeping a head was also a concern. And his feet. He had feet of clay like the rest of us.

Just a whiff or a quiff of it vouchsafed me then in this living Mantegna. Holiness visible. And I had to keep at bay the thoughts that came headlong crowding to interpret and spoil it. That assertive yang recollection comes later and involuntarily when on our couches we lie in vacant or in a pensive moodiness. A brown study. A then as now (liberation from that cheeky monkey the egoic mind!). Because of this choiceless noticing the mystics tell us our visit to the still centre is prolonged. The Self not brooking interference of its goalless realisation annihilates the more more mind. It is always there they tell us. The Self. The one reality. Blackbird in the light of its dark dark night.

Its eeriness maybe comes from its seeming to be in the past perhaps because the observer has ceased to exist. Metaphysically you are past it. And what’s past is dead. You are an I without a me and outside time in eternity looking in at the sweet illusion. All thought even poetry is of the past and has to be resurrected as Wordsworth put it by being recollected in tranquillity. A book of poetry is a graveyard of poems unless the reader’s soul claps its hands and sings em. The dance by contrast is pure manifestation in that it appears but once and then is gone. Higher in the eternal hierarchy then. More like the poems that are the extraordinary of ordinary lives. (Hurrah! for Wordsworth for bringing poetry down to earth)

The poetic motion that is the dance tells of no single cause but of death and resurrection in eternal intercourse (interestingly it was in Wordsworth’s time that this word took on its meaning of two bodies becoming one). It feels the fear the numen of life and celebrates it anyway by placing it in the living dance to be transformed by the magic of poetic movement. In it the child is father of the person.

That feeling of distance then is as in the game when the player is in the zone. Squarings, as Heaney calls it. Yeats calls it school. Not Dotheboys but Singing School studying monuments of its own magnificence. (Poussin’s Bacchanalian Revel before a Term). Not cold distance where Apollo rules okay but homecoming creative heartwarming self disciplings that make sense as they manifest out of embodied non-effort. Aquinas’s “definition” of God becoming a palpable presence.

Nunc stans.

Finally there was the complimentary feedback from Steve about my “dancing”. It still remains for me just moving. I say just misleadingly for of course it’s wonderful to move. And I get gleams of appreciation of its awe and mystery. Look my Lord it moves! More and more there is a joy in it and thanks to the classes in Echo Echo. And it spills over into my life in multitudinous ways. Or my life spills into it. Anyway there is fructification. I can now call it dancing but the default is not to, not from false modesty nor solemn Phariseeism I hope but from a reticence that is the same as my reluctance to talk about my beliefs. Somehow the very talking is a besmirching. There is something secret and sacred in the nature of it not a dark backward but a light lightening and enlightening backward. It requires the elusive throaty moment when gesture rules in golden awkwardness. That hush that comes over when a goldfinch comes to the birdtray. Shh. There are two of them. Quiet now. No bird cheep, mouse squeak. Silence stillness and old immortality reign. The always so.

So, when someone talks about my dancing I usually just (that word again) listen and try to look like Marlene. Soulful with a touch of Fragt nicht warum. Tough ask admittedly in your seventies. Some day perhaps I will move with its poetic power into speech and be able to name it authentically as Steve does. Esperons.

Three selections then from the sweet trolley of the course’s smorgasbord.

A crucible for vision these classes in Echo Echo of which I’ve said perhaps too much and too irreverently and as I’ve said the saying itself often registering an irreverence.

However for me they’ve been portals into the unmanifested. Oops! There I go again! Those mystics have a lot to answer for.

Does this essay give you the feeling i’m reading Wordsworth at the moment?

Sic transit gloria mundi.

John McCartney

April 2022

Body Wisdom is Echo Echo Dance Theatre Company’s dance and movement project for people over 50 years old. It’s been going for well over a decade. The Body Wisdom Project includes weekly classes, intensive workshops and performance projects. It is open to anyone old enough. If you are interested to join or to get more information email info@echoechodance.com and put Body Wisdom in the subject line

“ECHO ECHO FESTIVAL PRESENTS” 22nd – 27th FEBRUARY 2021

Image C. Harley Zoo Creative

From 22nd to 27th February 2021 Echo Echo Dance Theatre Company offers a series of online events under the title “ECHO ECHO FESTIVAL PRESENTS” as a covid19-adapted alternative to the normal festival format. The events include livestreamed solo performances, talks by artists who had been commissioned to present work at the festival, an online retrospective of images from past festivals, workshops and a chance to meet and question the Echo Echo team about our work. As Covid19 restrictions ease later in 2021 and into early 2022 the company will be programming the new works commissioned for the festival, also under the title “ECHO ECHO FESTIVAL PRESENTS”.

Echo Echo Dance Theatre Company Artistic Director, Steve Batts writes:

We scheduled the dates for the 8th edition of Echo Echo Dance Theatre Company’s Festival of Dance and Movement a long time before the Covid19 pandemic disrupted everyone’s plans. However, as it became clear that we couldn’t rely on conditions being in any way normal, we decided to change our plans to remain as flexible as possible to whatever situation might arise.

We really didn’t want to create a dance-film event or to present filmed versions of performances which really ought to be presented live so, with this in mind, we decided to build the festival around newly commissioned live work that would be as “Covid19 adaptable” as possible. To avoid any issues with travel restrictions, we put out an invitation to artists based on the island of Ireland to propose projects that would be as adaptable as possible but which retained a live performance element. The responses were imaginative and inspiring. Some people proposed tiny audiences, some proposed livestreamed work, some wanted to work outside despite the time of year, some wanted to incorporate social-distancing rules. We commissioned four artists from this process, Suzannah McCreight, Natasha Bourke, Katy Wilson and Zoe Ramsey.

While this process was going on Tara Brandel called me to say that her company, Croi Glan, had received support for a new solo, livestream, work featuring Linda Fearon and directed by Caroline Bowditch. She said that she had intended to apply for an Echo Echo Festival commission but was concerned that those should go to support artists who otherwise wouldn’t have resources, and would we like to present this new work without us having to commission it. This kind of creativity, adaptability, mutual support and generosity has been a feature of my professional experience throughout the past year.

So we ended up with five newly developing pieces by wonderful movement artists to schedule into our programme.

Then the turn of the year gradually brought the clear understanding that we would have to jettison all our planned live elements. With travel restrictions and work-place rules it became obvious that even a livestream from a private house, which needed a cross border trip and a technical crew in a small space, wasn’t going to be possible. We decided that the best idea was to create a series of online events under the heading “Echo Echo Festival Presents” and to save the live performances of the newly commissioned works for later in the year, when presenting them properly should become possible.

ONLINE TALKS

All of the artists whose work we had planned to present agreed to postpone their performances and each agreed to give an online talk during festival time, to give the opportunity for people to hear something about their ideas and concerns and a little about their creative processes and where they are at the moment with the work-in-progress. We hope these talks will whet the appetite for when we are in a position to present the performances properly.

LIVESTREAMED SOLOS

The programme also includes 5 livestreamed solo dances by artists from Echo Echo. These are modelled on the November Dances project that I undertook in late 2020. The format of short solo dances each evening proved very successful with well over 1000 log-ins from many parts of the globe, over the twenty one evenings. We decided to continue this format as a way to keep things live and to energise the connections between our local, regional, national and international audiences and colleagues. So, at 7pm each evening one of Zoe, Ayesha, Kelly, Tonya and myself will invite you to join the audience on zoom for a unique, one-off, solo performance designed for livestream.

WORKSHOPS

We are also presenting several online workshops, drawing on this year’s experience of how to make wonderful classes online. One workshop is for families, one for over fifties and one for anyone who want to explore phrasing in movement.

RETROSPECTIVE GALLERY

Our close collaborator, Simon Alleyne, who has been responsible for the photographic and video documentation the Echo Echo Festivals, is creating a retrospective exhibition selected from the beautiful images from the past seven editions. A version of this will be available as an online gallery between 22nd and 27th February. Later in the year we will mount the full exhibition of images in the lobby and gallery spaces at Echo Echo Studios.

OPEN TO QUESTIONS

Finally, on Saturday 27th Echo Echo is “open to questions”. All the staff and ensemble artists will be available online from 2pm – 4pm to answer (or at least try to answer) any questions you might have about the company. Maybe you are interested in the history, the idea of “Poetic Movement”, light and sound, collaboration, the organisational structure, funding, the experience of building a project slowly over decades outside a metropolitan centre, our views on art practice generally and dance in particular, the special challenges of the past year… or something else entirely. If you have a question, or just want to hear us respond to other people’s, then join us.

On reflection, The Echo Echo Festival of Dance and Movement is so fundamentally a live event with real presence and proximity that we can’t really think of this online,”Echo Echo Presents” week as the eighth edition of our festival. It feels like an in-between-time and that this is an in-between-event. It is a sort of “seven-and-a-halfth” festival.

Look out for programme details coming shortly on http://www.echoechodance.com and on social media!

Steve Batts Artistic Director

Some reflections on the first week of “November Dances”

I have been live streaming short solo dances every weekday evening since the beginning of November. I will continue to do so until Monday 30th. The first 6 evenings have had between 65 and 80 people attending. We have had audience from all over the world including Ukraine, Russia France, China, Italy, Australia, Germany, Ireland, England, Romania, Italy, Spain… and lots of Derry locals.

For details of the performances, and how to join the live streams, please go to: https://www.echoechodance.com/whatson/november-dances

Here are some reflection after the first week.

  • Too many online events are lesser versions of live events. I wanted to make something that made the best of online possibilities rather than replace the live events we miss.
  • Online live events are usually too long. The attention dynamic of watching online is totally different to really present live.
  • I didn’t want to post recordings online. When there are recordings people think “oh I’ll watch that later” or I’ll watch the rest of it later. This profoundly changes the relationship of performer with audience.
  • I wanted to encourage the audience members to acknowledge each other and find a mutual energy of support for the event. I wondered if that was possible online. I think it has been successful so far. Maybe this is at least partly because of the loyal and personal relationship Echo Echo has built with it’s audience members. People have generally left their video screens on during the performance and many people have stuck around afterwards for a chat. This is like what happens in the live theatre.
  • Keeping it live. I don’t post recordings of the dances online. So people become more like a live audience. Of course they can leave if they aren’t happy watching but the liveness means they have made a commitment of energy to themselves, other audience members.
  • The maximum length of the dances at 10 minutes seems good. It means that a degree of attention and intensity can be maintained. The first dance was only about three minutes. This seemed rather short given the energy and commitment everyone dedicates.
  • I am loving dancing to my favourite music tracks. Without excuse. Because each event is short, just dancing is enough. It doesn’t need a lot of conceptualisation or complex compositional process. In three to ten minutes those are contained internally in the dance. I think this is particularly true because I know each piece of music well.
  • It is great to see people coming back night after night. There are several who have come to watch all five dances. Someone suggested that anyone who can make it to all 21 should get an Echo Echo T shirt as a prize!
  • It has been very important for me to be alone in the studio, operating the technology myself. This means my focus is purely on the dancing and the guests. There isn’t a technician or colleague in the space with me. This makes it somehow very private as well as very public. I think that if there was someone else in the space with me the online audience members would feel that they were somehow secondary. Watching something from outside rather than a necessary element of the event. That is like live theatre performance.
  • My reference for the presentation and texture of this project is not an online business meeting, a pop video, a livestream of a live show with audience, a feature film or documentary. It is a family video call for a birthday or other special event. The question for me was (and is): How can that sort of relationship be heightened and poeticised by attention to the detail of the use of the technology and the way we engage with it? I’m not at all interested in competing with the aesthetics and production values of pop videos or tv productions, or feature films, or even live outside broadcasts. These things are very costly to make and adhere to conventions that are not very helpful to the kind of thing I want to create or that Echo Echo dance Theatre Company has been facilitating and creating over the years.
  • Keeping it simple: One camera. One lighting state. An easy sequence of actions to get the technology started. Live music in the space.
  • The support of Tonya, who has co-hosted has been great. It just means that letting people in to the meeting and checking that the archive recording is on and helping people with questions isn’t on my plate right before I dance.
  • Having a lovely studio space which can be set up to be warmly lit and simply presented is really important… and Barry Davis, Tech manager’s support with this and making all the technology work.

Music so far: Bach, Schubert, June Tabor, Sonny Rollins, Arvo Pärt and Renee Aubry.

More reflections coming after a few more performances.

Steve Batts 10 November 2020

Grété Šmitaité in Šimonys Forest

Over the past months I have had the pleasure of mentoring former Artist in Residence at Echo Echo, Grété Šmitaité as she has been researching in Šimonys Forest, Lithuania, developing a new work. She has been invited to show the piece for the first time as part of a double bill to be shown in late November early December in Vilnius.

The mentoring has, like most of my recent dance related interactions, been done online. It always feels a pity not to be able to be “there”, in real life, sharing the space, the air the local sounds and smells, feeling the actual presence together. On the other hand, I’m not sure I’d have been able to make a trip to Lithuania under normal circumstances so I’m actually really happy and feel privileged that I was asked and able to say yes.

Grété invited me to mentor her because of an interest in the general framework of Echo Echo’s practice of Poetic Movement and particularly because of a connection with the landscape/environmental/outdoor movement work that I do. This form of practice was central to the creation of The Cove in 2012, to much of my work with the Body Wisdom Group, and has been at the heart of the work I’ve been doing with Echo Echo’s sister ensemble in Russia, over the past few years. This area of work doesn’t focus so much on site specific events and performance in particular locations, but more on the way in which sensory memory and imagination of particular places can be brought into the studio and activated there as a source for dancing. It was this process of “embodying memory” and recall that she wanted to engage with in her own way.

It has been a pleasure to be sent videos and texts to mull on and to meet in video calls to discuss and reflect. It is always so inspiring to exchange with someone who is full of interest, motivation and curiosity while having a certain restrained, patience.

The process is going to continue over the next month, leading up to the performances on 30th November and 1st December. Lithuania appears to be doing a bit better than around here with the current pandemic so we remain hopeful that the performances will go ahead. I feel sad that I won’t be there to see the first showing, but hopefully there will be chances in future. Maybe Grété will be able to come back to Derry and show the work here.

Here are some reflections from Grété on her process so far

“With the start of the pandemic I have moved to live in a house in Šimonys forest, Lithuania. It was most of the time living there, me and the dog, meeting the fluxes of air, growth of vegetation, comings and goings of wild animals. This was at the start of the pandemic, when how things will go on was not clear. I felt a strong desire to be connected to the place where I was and to stay in touch with people, amongst them with other makers of dance who at the time were isolated in other parts of the world. To do so I wanted to dance in the place where I was, study from books, videos, write, call colleagues, share thoughts of doing and living.

I did not know how to start dancing in a meadow, a forest. I was walking, observing, adapting, moving. While moving I looked for the sizzling restless feeling with which came some clarity of what I do and how I connect to where I am, the clarity in time and ability to trace / not get into the way for what will follow what, for how things will go on. I defined this as dancing and looked for it. 

When starting, I would walk for around 3 hours and the dance that I could dance was 30 seconds. It felt scary and exciting. Observing the changes of presence, movements that I do not control, the movement of attention was inspiring and frustrating. I was getting to know about the place through doing things in it – from walking, moving, dancing to picking herbs, planting vegetables.

Mostly being in this forest I walk the same paths. I realised that ‘in the practice’ I was trying to break this – I had many times taken a new way, thinking that I should do so since that is how I am more attentive and can make better choices choosing where and how to dance, observe. I would get lost. With time I realised that for the thing I was doing it does not make sense to try to break the ways I walk the place.

I was dancing ‘out in the open’, not setting any boundary for where the limit of space that I am within, is. Or setting boundaries and approaching ‘out in the open’ from there. My main partners being a vast sky and the vast ground in their meetings. ‘What you do feels very seasonal’ Steve has mentioned after watching some records from the meadow, some time later. 

The weather was always changing. Places changed from spring to autumn. Familiarity with the places grew. Pretending that I knew the places grew.

What would be the dance that stays, when places change? What could hold it?

I would like to now go to the studio and see, how could the dancing, the restlessness of it ‘out in the open’ become alive and reachable in the studio. 

Throughout the time in the forest I was reading Contact Quarterly dance journal 1975-1992 and ‘Being Alive’ by Tim Ingold. C. Q. encouraged me to appreciate simple things – breath, weight, senses, sharing thoughts. It also showed how much there is in each of these things, when actually getting to be attentive to them. ‘Being Alive’ supported the trust that dancing, observing as well as cooking, storytelling are ways of being part of the world and its worldling.

Through the 6 months I was sharing what I was doing with: Stephen Batts as a mentor, Christine Quoiraud as a very experienced colleague, who both have offered insights, encouraged me to be honest and real to do what I was doing as well as be fair and agree, when I am stuck / pretending to be doing what I am not doing. ‘A rigorous practice of dancing. | Don’t do anything before you know it’s that. When you are done – stop.’ I carry words from Steve. ‘Practice rhythms all the time, not just on stage. If you just do it on stage, for the camera, it is already too late. | Practice concentration all the time. Not just for stage as a human tool to be part of the world’ from Christine. 

Sharing thoughts with colleagues, Rūta Junevičiūtė, Hanna Kritten Tangsoo, Magdalena Meindl, Lyllie Rouvière, Forough Fami, Iivy Meltaus. Taking time for a conversation, for writing a letter. Through having these small and at the same time vast exchanges I realize, how important they are.

I am deeply thankful for this time in the forest”.

https://www.researchcatalogue.net/view/1003168/1003169

Steve Batts 22nd October 2020

Open Call for Commissions for Echo Echo Festival of Dance and Movement, February 20th – 27th 2021, Derry.

Art Work Mark Willet

Echo Echo Dance Theatre Company will award three small commissions for works that are “adaptable” to Covid19 circumstances and restrictions. The main restriction is that work should be created on the island of Ireland and that creation and performance of it should not involve any international travel which might put the project at risk should restrictions apply.

Application deadline is Friday 23rd October with decisions announced by Friday 30th October.

Contact Artistic Director, Steve Batts with any queries: steve@echoechodance.com

OVERVIEW

Echo Echo Dance Theatre Company is planning the next edition of its annual festival of dance and movement. The festival will run between 20th and 27th February 2021.

Due to the current conditions around the Covid19 pandemic we are aiming for a “pandemic adaptable” programme which is shorter and smaller than in previous editions. With a nod to the film Being John Malkovich, we are thinking of this years festival as the seven-and-a-halfth edition and we are hoping for interesting and imaginative proposals that suit this “in-between” time.

The main festival programme will be made up of commissioned pieces made with the idea of being “pandemic adaptable”. To minimise risk of cancellations due to pandemic related restrictions on international travel we are asking for proposals from artists based in The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland for new work or adapted existing work. The proposed works should not involve any international travel which might jeopardise performance should travel restrictions be in place.

There are three commissions available. One at £3000, one at £2500 and one at £1500. 50% of the commission fee will be paid in advance with the remainder payable on completion of the project.

Details

1. Artists applying must be based in Northern Ireland or The Republic of Ireland

2. The proposed work should be new work or an appropriate adaptation of existing work.

3. We are looking for proposals for “pandemic adaptable” work. Circumstances are likely to remain unpredictable and changeable for the foreseeable future, so we want to commission live work that will be able to be shared in most circumstances other than a complete societal shutdown.

4. The aim should be to present the work live. We recognise that in exceptional circumstances this may not be possible. Any decision to present work in recorded form, partially or completely will be taken close to the festival dates in negotiation with artists. There will be no additional finance, beyond the commission fee, for last minute adaptations to the project. Please consider this when making your proposal.

5. In general we would expect work to be presented in or near Derry, although there might be project proposals for “live-feed” work where the performance, or elements of it, take place elsewhere.

6. Creation and/or performance of the work should not involve international travel which might jeopardise the creation or presentation of the work should travel restrictions be imposed.

7. We ask that artists make themselves available to join an online discussion session of one to two hours during the festival.

8. We look forward to your imaginative proposals. Here are some suggestions of possible approaches. We are sure there are others:

a) The proposal might be for work that is designed for or adaptable to outside spaces. Please remember that the festival is in February.

b) The proposal might be for multiple performances of a short piece, to very small audiences.

c) Proposals might be for solos, small ensembles, pieces with no physical contact or for work made by household groups who do not need to distance from each other.

d) Proposals might be for live transmission from a site specific location(s) to an audience gathered in a theatre space or hall for viewing (with option for viewing at home if gathering as an audience isn’t possible).

e) Proposals might be for durational, gallery-style work with small numbers of watchers at any particular time.

f) We imagine we might receive proposals that involve groups performing improvisation scores with minimal rehearsal, proposals that involve solo work developed from substantial studio time, and proposals that lie between these two.

g) We will favour imaginative approaches to the practical challenges of live performance in “Covid19 times”. This might mean proposing an idea which is possible under any condition excepting full lock-down restrictions or leaving the exact nature of the presentation open for now but with an indication of how you intend to take the circumstances and necessary adaptability into consideration at all stages.

h) We want to support ongoing, longer term interests of movement artists rather than be reactive to the specifics of the current pandemic time. Therefore we are not interested in receiving proposals which are explicitly, thematically, driven by the experience of the Covid19 pandemic. Tangential references, relevance, resonance are of course fine.

i) We are interested in, for example, how you think about your art practice in relation to the work of other dance artists (historical and contemporary), the world around us, aesthetic and political ideas, artists from other art forms. We aren’t ticking boxes, but rather listening for inspiration and depth.

The application process

 Send us a detailed proposal of what you would like to do, with whom and why, with background to your proposal and how you might imagine it turning out. Please give a brief outline of working process, timetable and any other financial support or support in kind that you will, or may, have. Please explain the way in which the work is “pandemic adaptable”. Please indicate if your proposal is specifically aimed at one of the commission levels. Maximum of 1500 words.

 An artist statement about your work and its history; themes, values, interests, development. Maximum 500 words.

 A biography or CV. Maximum one page A4.

 You may include a separate page with links to website, video, images, text and reviews about previous work. Please limit the amount of video material for which you provide links to a small number of relevant examples.

 You may include a separate page with personal references or recommendations that you think are relevant.

 Echo Echo may be able to support successful proposals with residencies, studio space, mentoring/creative support/technical support. If you would like this to be considered please address this in your application.

(Word counts are maximums and can be substantially lower if concision and brevity are yourthing”).

Don’t hesitate to contact us if you want to ask for more details or clarifications before making an application.

Send your application (or questions) by email with attachments to: steve@echoechodance.com by Friday 23rd October 2020. Decisions will be announced by Friday 30th October 2020.

Selection Process

Criteria: How does the proposal align with the history of programming of Echo Echo Festival and with its core, guiding principles: People not bodies. Armour off not armour on?

Selection will be by Echo Echo Artistic Director in consultation with Echo Echo staff and ensemble artists, with confirmation by Echo Echo Board.

We may make an initial short list and contact those listed for more information/clarification.

You can find details of previous Echo Echo Festivals and general information about the company at

http://www.echoechodance.com

Echo Echo Ensemble Return to the Studio

I’ve been doing quite a bit of moving at home during the period of withdrawal from live public engagement. I found my focus in exploring movement a little different from usual. I think this had to do with multiple factors: The presence of new themes, flowing from the big world into my small space and into my movement. Moving in a room with a mirror (there are not, by design, any mirrors in Echo Echo Studios). The opportunity to be radically process orientated – a time of pure research not driven by demands to produce, perform, teach.

There are not, by design, any mirrors in Echo Echo Studios but at home I found having this one an interesting change

I watched lots of videos posted online by dancers, but I found no real desire to share anything of my own. I’m rather wary of what I’ve experienced as the rush to replace the shared, complex, vibrant, four dimensional weather of live engagement with the flat, constrained, framed, rectangular coolness of the phone and computer screen. A dis-ease process that has been well underway for quite a while, regardless of any zoonotic virus.

That being said, I did feel privileged to have a video of Almost Blue, the solo piece I made in 2019, under the direction of Oona Doherty, included in the virtual version of John Scott’s “Dancer From the Dance” festival, in June, and Echo Echo artists did sustain several participation projects in an online form throughout.

I kept Echo Echo’s Body Wisdom project for over 50’s going from April to July with free, weekly online sessions of movement exploration and improvisation, with a bit of rambling philosophy thrown in. Joining this group of around a dozen people for a couple of hours each Friday morning has been a wonderful regular focus and a joyful privilege. Such an amazing bunch of people. Playful, witty and serious, and very committed.

I was very aware that the possibility to maintain quality and depth in the online experience seemed to be largely dependent on the strong and deep, pre-existing, shared practice of the group. It didn’t seem appropriate to invite new people to the group in its online form and I didn’t feel any strong desire to establish any new, online, classes.

A surprise offshoot of the “covid-crisis” and online connection has been a continuous exchange of emails among the Body Wisdom participants around all sorts of issues; deep and trivial, serious and humorous, mundane and spiritual, grounded and philosophical. These exchanges have included streams of poetry, from several people, shared with the whole group. Maybe there will be a moment to collect these profoundly sociable writings created under conditions of necessary physical distance and to publish them in some form, as a kind of collective diary of pandemic time.

At this moment of “return to the world” Echo Echo has been fortunate to receive some emergency funding from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland to support our work. It is specifically aimed at supporting the freelance artists of the Echo Echo Ensemble, whose usual income streams have run very thin, over the next few months. We have designed a project with two parts. One part of it looks at strategic and organisational issues facing the company along with specific concerns related to the pandemic such as safety protocols for public performance, classes, studio use and artist residencies etc. The other part is practical, in the studio (with appropriate distancing guidelines).

We had our first studio session, together, in almost 6 months, on Wednesday. I found it a strange, and rather pleasant, mixture of intensely emotional and intensely normal.

At one point I had a brief weep!

First session back in the studio together – appropriately distanced – after almost six months away with Kelly Quigley, Ayesha Mailey, Tonya Sheina and Zoe Ramsey

We started on the practical part of our project. This is focused on re-learning the foundations of remembering, repeating, watching and imitating movement. The theme arose from discussions during the forced hiatus since March, but goes back much further in its roots.

For many years Echo Echo’s work has had a strong focus on improvisation, both in performance and in movement exploration. We have made work which is relatively “set” and had sections of pieces that were “set” but these usually grew out of shared, exploratory, processes and improvisational structures rather than the more traditional ways of creating repeatable, imitable, detailed movement patterns. Often these strongly “set” elements have been based on interactive movement rather than “unison” material. Our teaching work, in recent times, has also had a far stronger emphasis on movement exploration, interaction and improvisation than on copying and imitating, learning, remembering and repeating movements, sequences and dances.

This emphasis hasn’t been because of any in principle rejection of “set” forms. Rather we chose to focus on the development and strengthening of fundamental attentional, creative and compositional concerns in our movement practice, which we found hard to sustain when in the mode of creating, learning, imitating, remembering and repeating.

We shared the feeling that, generally, the experience of learning and remembering and repeating movement material is very stressful. This feeling seems to be common among dancers. I think this stress comes from the pedagogy of “copying” classes (usually called, in my opinion misleadingly, “technique classes”) and from the typically pressurised, time-poor process of making performances. Personally I have almost always felt very rushed in those classes and rehearsals where I had to pick up and remember movement quickly. Being in a rush, in an often competitive environment, works against detail, depth and understanding and can favour the ability to reduce complex and detailed movement to sketchy stereotypical copies rather than the ability to engage deeply with the process of understanding through imitation.

I have always loved to copy people’s movement and dances. I think my primary motivation in doing this has been to understand a point of view by entering it, rather than to achieve some status or get a job (that last bit is very clear from my professional history!)

Echo Echo Ensemble’s project over the next three months is to go back to the beginning of the process of learning and understanding and joining in through imitation. We want to re-experience the joy of creating and sharing repeatable dances; imitating, remembering, taking our time, starting simple, remaining concerned with detail and nuance and meaning rather than function.

Our broad aim is to strengthen and deepen our ways of making “set” dances, inspired by the desire to dance “in unison” with each other, which are rooted in the qualities of movement characteristic of the Echo Echo Ensemble which we have developed over the years of research, creation and performance together.

This will offer a new input to the creative work of the company as individuals and collectively. It also happens to align with some of the concerns thrown up by the current pandemic. Online teaching with a focus on improvisation with new groups is challenging. Finding a way to embody Echo Echo movement principles in small, but complete and repeatable, learnable dances, will, hopefully, offer a helpful extra way to engage with the public online should limits on public gatherings remain.

Our first session on Wednesday was very gentle, stress-free, profound and moving. I am looking forward to our twice weekly sessions on this theme over the next weeks and months.

I’ll be posting a weekly blog about the work and what discoveries and insights arise.

I want to send my best wishes to everyone in this time of re-emergence. Particularly to colleagues and friends in the performing arts. Musicians, actors, dancers, circus performers, comedians, most of whom are freelance and self-employed, are having the hardest of times in relation to the pandemic, compounding the frequent insecurity and precariousness of their lives at the best of times.

Steve Batts

03/09/2020

Dissonance Of Surface 1. Caake – Body Wisdom Workshop Performance Tuesday 12th November 8pm

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Maggie Hannon, Dennis Golden, Deirdre Gillespie. Image Simon Alleyne

I wrote this blog after the one about Ockham’s Razor’s performance of This Time even though the performance came before and serendipitously (or not) I can see that some of the themes in my blog about This Time align with my thoughts about the CAAKE workshop performance.

Specifically the overlap is in the issues of age, rhythm, care and the removal of the end-gaining stress in the interactive movement.

Most of the performance was a trio by three experienced members of Echo Echo Dance Theatre Company’s long term project for movers over 50 years of age; Dennis Golden, Maggie Hannon and Deirdre Gillespie. They were joined briefly by the two artists who are in residence at St Augustine’s Old School House, Gail Mahon and Marketa Formanova.

Gail and Marketa had led a day long workshop with members of the Body Wisdom Group and those who wished to could choose to perform.

The piece focused on interactive relationships between the performers with typical trio compositional structures formed around duo-solo tensions, the processes by which duets form out of trios, and various ways that individuals roles changed. The clearly readable movement theme had to do with the compression and elasticity of space. The performance was a series of, more or less loose, improvisational scores played out as an exploration of this theme.

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Maggie Hannon, Dennis Golden, Deirdre Gillespie. Image Simon Alleyne

The simplicity and playfulness of the performance presence of Dennis, Deirdre and Maggie allowed the process of exploration to be interesting as a performance, with more than an experimental, analytic or abstract feel. There was humour, skill and pathos, and lots of small human stories, played out in both real and metaphoric time and space. Various pieces of equipment were used to make the physical connection between the performers extend into the performance space beyond close physical touch. Sticks like broomsticks, tubes and rope (with handles like a water ski rope) appeared creating three layers of dynamic interaction; literal physical touch, extended structural inter-dependency created by the leaning-in-pushes and leaning-out-pulls facilitated by the equipment and the forms of pull and push that exist in the spatial interactions between people not in physical touch contact, where the sense of pressure of pull and push, flow, resistance and turbulence are played out at a distance.

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Maggie Hannon, Dennis Golden, Deirdre Gillespie. Image Simon Alleyne

It was interesting to see how, because of the extension of physical contact at distance provided by the equipment, a lot of the connection at a distance became more intimate and immediately communicative than the non-touching movement in close proximity. The similar themes to those in This Time appeared because of the respect and care for the way in which the various structural inter-dependencies were managed by the performers during the explorations. Effectively what was happening, in part, was a series of challenges to shared physical organisation, not dissimilar to what happens in Contact Improvisation.

Very often when older people dance Contact Improvisation with younger people the rhythm is determined by the younger one with the older one always having to adapt from their natural, often well-organised, tempo to try to keep up with the reactivity and reflex speed of the younger one. In this case, all the trio of performers being over 50, the issue of speed and rhythm didn’t arise in the same way.

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Maggie Hannon, Dennis Golden, Deirdre Gillespie. Image Simon Alleyne

These performers are very competent movers. There is no sense of it being a problem to go down to sit, kneel or lie; no problem with standing up, balancing on one leg, changing direction. There is no collapse or rigidity in the movement or attention. However the natural range of tempo and tonus is, for sure, not that of a 25 year old. Because of the shared understanding of each other’s palettes of speed, tonus, acceleration, reactive speed etc there is no undue stress in the process of adaptation to each other’s movement choices. This means that the particular movement sophistication and understanding of the performers, specific to their age, had a chance to appear and be appreciated. There is nothing poetically limited about a particularly well organised movement down from standing into a kneel and then into sitting just because it takes a little time and has some very consciously organised, and attended to, stages. The knowledge of how to manage that journey with balance and dignity is a true and valuable knowledge. Going faster, and possibly being rushed and less well organised, would be inappropriate. Watching, we didn’t see insecurity, worry, rushing and badly organised end-gaining movement but rather were invited to a particular and well inhabited movement world.

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Maggie Hannon, Dennis Golden, Deirdre Gillespie. Image Simon Alleyne

 

Thoughts on This Time by Ockham’s Razor at the Guildhall, Echo Echo Festival 13th November

Pic for This Time blogspot

I had only seen this piece on video and we booked it for the festival on the basis of that, and also on the wonderful experience of having Ockham’s Razor at the 2016 Echo Echo festival. The show they did then, Tipping Point, was really beautiful and the people in the company, from performers to management, were an absolute pleasure to work with.

I am very happy to have gone with my intuition on this because This Time is a very beautiful and touching show.

Unlike many acrobatic and/or aerial shows there is nothing sinewy, or ripped, or muscle bound, or show-off, or border line anorexic about This Time. This is because of a wonderful hole in the middle of the piece. There is no “young adult” in it. There is Faith, a 13 year old girl; Lee, a woman of around 60; and Alex and Charlotte who I’d imagine are mid to late thirties, but anyway clearly mature adults. There is no young adult, in their twenties, to show their moves, to push the pace, to work on excitement and adrenaline. This makes it much easier for watchers to identify with the performers as ordinary, real people and it also means that the rhythm of the show is particular, and different from what one might expect from circus-theatre. This is an intensely lovely thing and is the foundation for the whole composition.

Although the skill, strength and technical ability of the performers is very clear, the real values of This Time are encapsulated in the way that the hands of the performers move. They move methodically and carefully to grasp the equipment – the trapeze, cradle, rigging wires, frames – and each other. They are offered and they wait for the offer to be accepted, they move one limb at a time, like a careful rock climber making sure that the support remains through the transfer of weight. I was drawn to watch those hands so carefully, and I felt the qualities of care, communication, listening, patience, responsibility, intimacy and a sensual pleasure.

These feelings are exactly what the piece is about, and the simple and basic physical embodiment of these values gives a depth and profundity to what is, overall, a rather straightforwardly constructed composition.

The piece includes a series of monologues focused on stages of life and the particular vulnerabilities that come with each life stage. Typically, in theatre, one assumes that monologues like this may not be literally true, but in this case I was absolutely sure that the stories told were real and autobiographical memories of the performers. I think I assumed this because of the context set by the aerial scenes. The aerial scenes are “real”. There is no artifice in the hand of a man grasping the hand of a dangling girl. No pretense in the balancing of the weight, at height, between four performers moving themselves through complex, but gently performed images, on a suspended rope cradle and trapeze. The reality is that we see a careful, caring, process of support and interaction which is deeply respectful of the different needs of each performer. The overall rhythm is given by that of the youngest and oldest performers. This makes the whole aerial aspect stand as an explicit, clearly stated, metaphor for the central concerns and values of the piece.

The clarity of that metaphor, and the “realness” of the action that creates it, provide a strong compositional foundation which makes it appropriate for the monologues to be performed in a straightforward, almost theatrically naive, way. That manner, which in other contexts could be slightly embarrassing or annoying, actually feels appropriate.

The design and use of the aerial equipment adds another element. There is a strong sense of the equipment being dynamic and a means of communication and interaction rather than static objects that are there to be “used” or which are seen as providing a challenge to be overcome. Even the counterbalancing processes, which remain offstage and unseen, are felt and understood. One can see that there is a communication and adaptation process going on; a sense of live timing and shared purpose behind the scenes.

The simple and un-armoured presence of the performers, their straightforwardly autobiographical tales, the transparency of the aerial work and the poise in the equipment design are all in themselves plain and uncomplicated. However, the elements interact with each other to create rich references and metaphors, multiple points of compassionate connection and fellow feeling with the audience, and a clear statement of the value of kindness, care and respect, and the importance of not always being in a rush, especially in inter-generational relationships.

The magical thing is that all these elements and the complex effects of their interactions are present from almost the very start of the piece. They are just there. They don’t need long to be built up. Already in the first aerial quartet my heart opened wide from how moving and beautiful it was.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reflections on Solo Square Dance by Nic Gareiss

Well… I wrote that I’d try to blog daily through the festival…. I didn’t… so a bit of a catch up…

Nic pic for blog 1

 

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Nic Gareiss in Solo Square Dance at Teach an Cheoil (images by Simon Alleyne)

I spent the weekend in the charming and intellectually stimulating company of Nic Gareiss driving him and the portable dance floor to his performances of Solo Square Dance in houses just outside Ballycastle and just outside Buncrana. Our hosts in both places, the Sands family from Teach an Cheoil and Jess McSparron and family were incredibly generous. In both places they had, quite unexpectedly, laid on a spread for guests and audience and were so wonderfully warm and encouraging. We had 30 people in the Kitchen at the Sands’ and around fifty squeezed into the entrance hall at Jess’. Amazing feeling at both places. Nic’s show really went down well and after each show the “party” continued. Down to a traditional music session at the House of McDonnell pub in Ballycastle and on into the late night at Jess McSparron’s unique and really beautiful place. On Monday at lunchtime Nic performed the piece for a third time in the sitting room at Echo Echo Studios for those people who couldn’t make it out to the two countryside events.

So, I got a chance to see the piece three times, in slightly different settings and and in front of  different audiences as well as getting a good feel for the background ideas and perspectives behind the work from the hours in the car talking and digging around in the aesthetics, politics and history of dancing.

I think this piece is a masterpiece.

Any work this good offers an endless possibility for reflection and analysis. There is so much I could say about it from different angles; about the central choice to perform it in domestic settings; the delicacy of the handling of the artifice and gentle manipulation involved in creating what is a theatrical event in the form of a house party and then allowing the house party to actually emerge; the compositional crafting of the overall rhythms of the piece; the choices of song; the pared down script and the controlled but warm delivery of it, in which even the jokes stand up well on third hearing;… and of course the extraordinarily beautiful and heart warming quality of the dancing in its musical sensitivity and its entrancing and lovingly understated virtuosity.

However, I think, there is one core thing that gives an overall, gently theatrical frame for all these elements. It is something that is rather hidden away and isn’t really played out explicitly on the surface. This is the sense of a theatrical tension, what theatre practitioners might call “conflict” (maybe paradox would be a better word as “conflict” sounds too brutal and rough).

The themes in the text focus lightly but insistently on the idea of a sort of resonance between the history of dance bans and restrictions imposed by governments, including the 1935 Dance Halls Act, in Ireland, and the restrictions imposed on people whose sexuality and/or gender expression is outside publicly acceptable norms. Among other more subtle indicators of this theme a couple of lyrics of songs are changed to make same gender couples from lyrics which would more usually refer to heterosexual partnerings. Nic explicitly draws attention to these changes. At another point the audience are invited to join in the “degeneracy” of the party… to join the ranks of the transgressive…

This invitation to join the ranks of the “other” or to recognise that in some way one might actually already be “other” is seductive in itself and there is for sure a sort of unamplified political agenda being proposed here around the themes of sexual and gender identity and “excavating” cultural histories for hidden, repressed, narratives and lives.

The intersecting thematic line in the piece is about pleasure, and how pleasure, in itself and in particular the pleasure of dancing, might be, and has been, perceived as threatening to the political and cultural status quo.

These two themes, the gender and sexuality theme and the pleasure theme are mediated through the tonus and texture of Nic’s performance presence, through the text and through the dancing.

The theatrical “conflict”, tension, paradox, that I referred to is centred here. On one side is the tension of the attraction and excitement of attaching to a transgressive identity of and for itself. On the other is the pull towards pleasures that might only be accessible through the acceptance of a transgressive identity but with no fundamental attachment to the dispositional palette associated with transgression. The tension exists dynamically between the work as a didactic instrument for addressing political themes and creating solidarity and as an invitation to simple pleasure. The question is whether the dancing (and in fact the whole performance) is serving a purpose or whether the dancing liberated (the party), is the purpose. There is a tendency to think that the answer to these things is “both” but I have to say that for me the work finally resolves to come down on the side of pleasure rather than propaganda. Being with three different audiences and watching them react I am pretty sure that almost universally the question “what about that?” would be answered in the first instance with comments about the wonderful and beautiful dancing rather than the framing themes and devices. This, for me feels like a sort of softly experienced triumph.

Watching Solo Square Dance made me remember going to a performance of the first Gay Sweatshop Theatre tour in Northern Ireland in the University of Ulster sometime in the late seventies. The piece was direct and politically driven and we audience members suffered a direct attack with full beer glasses from the University Rugby club and walked a gauntlet of free presbyterian and DUP demonstrators trying to “Save Ulster from Sodomy”. I think in 70’s Ireland there would have been no way that a performance like Solo Square Dance could have been anything other than about the “issues”. The soft triumph is that now it can, in its heart (and feet) be about dancing and the shared pleasure of watching and doing dancing and singing, without losing its politically conscious head.

I’m not at all sure that Nic would agree with me on this. Maybe, for him, and for some audiences or audience members the political themes would still be the strong point of connection… but hey, that’s the nature of masterpieces, they can work on many levels.

More later, on See Me Disappear by Ayesha Mailey…. and other things…

… and for anyone looking for a lovely holiday B&B here’s the link for Teach an Cheoil. Open throughout the summer and looked after by the lovely Michael and Catherine Sands.