This May the Echo Echo Ensemble began their research and development phase for an exciting new site-specific work which they are making in partnership with LUXe (Landscape Theatre and Processional Spectacle) and with the support of the Bank of Ireland #BeginTogether Fund. The work is to be made for, and in response to LUXe’s own home, a magical piece of land in Gortcormican, Burnfoot, Donegal. The Echo Echo Ensemble have spent their first sessions on this land exploring all its nooks and crannies, really letting the space speak to them and offer inspiration for their movement. To experience the energy of this space in its fullest capacity, the girls have been undertaking various outdoor pursuits connecting with the land and all the elements including climbing, swimming, kayaking, tree climbing and generally moving around.
The land is rugged and wild, boasting a wealth of trees, flowers, foliage and wildlife. In the middle of the plot is a large lake which surrounds an island. There is a pathway around the lake which has many additional pathways leading from it to a variety of spaces around the lake one of these being a natural quarry face, which offers a perfect performance space.
Ayesha Mailey of the Echo Echo Ensemble says:
“The research for this piece really builds on processes we started with our production of ‘The Cove’. The concept of embodied memory and imagination taken from experiences of the land is central to how we will formulate ideas for this work. It’s amazing to feel we are like artists in residence in this beautiful space and there is just so much creative potential within it.“
Tonya Sheina from the Echo Echo Ensemble said:
“We talked about folklore and the fact that the Island was mainly woodland in ancient times, but this is no longer the case…..I really feel a sense of longing amongst the trees…..you can really understand why people might have invented spirits, elves and little creatures to inhabit such a place….especially at dusk when the shadows fall, there is kind of a different feel. All of this brings us back to a question that Mandy Blinco from LUXe put to us:
How does nature look at us?
There is always the idea of people looking at, and separating themselves from nature. It is natural for people to do this. But this question arises of how nature, which doesn’t have any good or bad, views a person with their sense of morality and all their ethics. This concept made us play with the idea of reflections and mirrors – to consider how we see nature and how nature sees us!”
A big thank you to The Bank of Ireland #BeginTogether fund for supporting the first phase of this project and to Mark Hill and Mandy Blinco from LUXe for their guidance and inspiration and gifting us their beautiful land to play in. We will keep you all posted on how this unique site-specific work takes shape.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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
Ferenc Feher and David Miko (Hungary)
Julianne Chapple and Maxine Chadburn (Canada)
Luminous Soul (NI)
Hwa Wei-An (Malaysia)
Rachel Sheil (Ireland)
Sahar Damoni (Palestine)
Look But With Love (Pakistan/Italy)
Susan Koper (USA)
Timea Laza and Sharon Barbakov choreographed by Lior Lazarof,
Anastasia Brouzioti and Yiannis Tsigkris of Alma Libre
Hilde Ingeborg Sandvold
Bjorn Richter of RichterMeyerMarx
Siobhán Ní Dhuinnín and Isabella Oberlander
Hannah Rogerson and Pieter Visser of Tea Time Company
Collective B (Austria)
Aoife Toner (Ireland)
Nicola Cisternino (Italy)
My Johansson (Sweden/London)
Catherine Muckle and Ryan O’Neill in Courtship by Gary Rowntree (NI)
Berenice and Laos (France/Canada)
Sarah Herr and Meret Rufener (Germany/Switzerland)
Sabrina Gargano and Verena Schneider (Italy/Germany)
Mel Bradley & Zoe Ramsey
Jusztina Hermann & Robert Peoples
Nastasja Stefanic and company
Valeria Famularo (Italy/London)
Olwyn Lyons and Sibéal Davitt (Ireland)
Janie Doherty and Zoe Ramsey (NI)
Maria Papathanasiou (Greece)
Sorcha Shanahan (NI)
Lily Akerman (USA)
Ronan Kearney, Dave Stevenson and Colin Norrby (NI)
Alba Lorca (Spain/Dublin)
ZoNa Dance and Jessica Peoples (Ireland)
NWRC Dance by Carie Logue (NI)
Sara Campinoti (Italy)
Oona Doherty (NI)
Alessandro Sollima (Italy)
Argyro Tsampazi (Greece/NI)
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.
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: email@example.com
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.
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 providelinks 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 your “thing”).
Don’t hesitate to contact us if you want to ask for more details or clarifications before making anapplication.
Send your application (or questions) by email with attachments to: firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday 23rdOctober 2020. Decisions will be announced by Friday 30th October 2020.
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
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.
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!
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.
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.