Echo Echo has a long history of being involved in the Derry Halloween festival over the last two decades. We’ve worked with a range of artistic and community partners to provide high quality artist-led experiences including major projects with LUXe – on some of their incredible landscape theatre installations and processions such as Awakening The Walls; with In Your Space Circus – most recently on the Murder of Crows performance in The Forest of Shadows aka St Columb’s Park in 2021; the Talking Heads installation by Barry Davis at Artillery Bastion in 2019; with TG4 and BBC on Samhain Live TV concert broadcasts in 2018 produced by Gifted Empire; presenting new theatre work with otherworldly themes Ghosts and Legends of the Coven by Gemma Walker-Farren and Abby Oliveira also in 2018; with Derry Halloween festival stalwarts North West Carnival Initiative over the years; as well as many other projects such as Halloween themed discos and kids classes.
For several years the idea of using Echo Echo’s home studios at Waterloo House for a Halloween production has been developed to various levels of detail but wasn’t quite possible, usually for financial reasons. This year in 2022 the company collectively decided to take a big risk with creating a new Halloween-themed production that would blend the team’s different expertise in movement theatre, choreography, performance, sound design, lighting and video projection mapping, along with the unique setting of Echo Echo Studios and its resources. An original co-creation between Echo Echo Ensemble Artists – Ayesha Mailey, Kelly Quigley, Zoe Ramsey, Tonya Sheina – and Echo Echo Technical Manager – Barry Davis – was conceived, developed, produced and presented.
The Experiment – a blood chilling sensory experience was very much an experiment for all involved and we are delighted to report that it was a great success and a complete sell-out with 32 shows over 4 nights all fully booked in advance. A big thank you to everyone who came along to watch and participate as test subjects – it was great to see so many happy and scared faces leaving the building!
There was a large behind-the scenes effort to make The Experiment happen:
Special thanks to The Experiment Co-Directors Zoe Ramsey and Barry Davis for their dedication to all aspects of the production over many months.
A big thank you to Echo Echo Ensemble performers Ayesha Mailey, Kelly Quigley and Tonya Sheina for their ever-constant commitment; as well as our current intern from University of Limerick, Liberty Rose, who took part in all 32 performances.
Thanks very much to the team of volunteers who performed and supported including Marcella Di Palo, Paul Nicholl, Maddie Nicholl, Cara McGeehan, Charlie Dobbin, Tommy Capper, Mia McGettigan, Mia Doherty and Ella Hawkins.
A big thank you to the front of house team Anna Nolan, Leeann Toland, Karen Cassidy and Deirdre Gillespie.
Special thanks to Terence McDowell – Principal of St. Eithne’s Primary School, to The Playhouse, and to Jes McSparron for their invaluable support.
Thanks to the Festivals and Events Team at Derry City and Strabane District Council and Derry Halloween for all of their support, and special mentions for Jacqueline Whoriskey, Orlaith Meenan and Ailish McDaid – and to all of the other staff across Council who support Echo Echo throughout the year.
Thanks to Echo Echo’s principal funder Arts Council of Northern Ireland for its ongoing annual support, and also an acknowledgement of the Arts Council NI Health & Safety Capital Programme which enabled outdoor equipment purchase for use on this event.
If you have any feedback or suggestions on The Experiment please comment below or get in touch.
Thanks to Liberty Rose for the behind-the-scenes photos, and to Barry Davis for The Experiment promotional artwork.
Echo Echo is pleased to be hosting an internship by Liberty Rose from University of Limerick through autumn 2022. This is Liberty’s review of the recent Echo Echo Festival Presents Tradition and Beyond events in Derry in September:
From the 14th to the 18th of September, the Tradition and Beyond Festival took place in Echo Echo Studios and Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin. The festival included workshops and performances by Joanne Barry and Anne O’Donnell from Siamsa Tiré – the National Folk Theatre of Ireland, Kristyn Fontanella, Aneta Dortová, Sarah Fennell, Laura Lundy, and musicians Moya Sweeney, William Troy, and band Áirc Damhsa. An opening of an exhibition of landscape painting curated by Sinéad Smyth was also launched as part of the festival, with a series of paintings by Peadar McDaid, Josephine Kelly and Paul Murray. To end the festival, a round table discussion was held where everyone who took part; teachers, performers, audience, were invited to discuss and reflect on the place of Tradition in Dance in a modern-day context, drawing from personal experience.
As part of my residency/internship at Echo Echo, I was invited to take part in all the workshops, to attend the exhibition and performances. I am delighted to have had the opportunity to be involved in a such a diverse professional and community arts event.
Airc Damhsa’s performance
I am currently studying contemporary dance, so the focus on footwork in this festival was a welcome change. The purpose of the movement, although inherently visual, was to create a rhythm. When watching members of Áirc Damhsa dance, I had the sensation that I was watching them play music instead of dance. As an audience, we watched their full bodily engagement, whilst the dancers’ own focus lay on the movement of their feet and the sound this created. It was like watching the hammers inside a piano hit the strings, whilst the pianist plays the keys.
Aneta Dortová and William Troy
Aneta Dortová brought a very contemporary approach to traditional percussive dance. In her workshop, she encouraged participants to use the entirety of their feet when dancing, and to notice how this affected the movement of their whole bodies. What I noticed was how slight changes in the placement of the weight on my feet affected my stance, and way of moving. In fact, it affected the way I was feeling! I learnt how the part of my foot that I bear weight on encourages me to move in different ways and made particular steps easier or harder to achieve. I am usually quite oblivious to what is happening in my feet and am now encouraged to explore it further. When watching Aneta’s performance with live music from William Troy, I was entranced by the fast and fluid shifts that she made from the floor to standing, sometimes working with, and sometimes working against the articulation of her feet. On occasion she let her head lead her and allowed her feet to follow. I enjoyed being transported to the weird and wonderful world of this performance, never being sure of what would come next.
Joanne Barry and Anne O’Donnell
Joanne Barry and Anne O’Donnell from Siamsa Tiré shared some movements from their traditional Munnix dance style. In contrast to the other workshops, they were very specific about the way in which the steps were done. It was important to pass on the details of the movements, and their history. I liked how their performance involved a lot of storytelling. Although some scenes were elaborate and larger than life, they maintained their personal relationship with the audience. Despite the heightened reality of the performance the intimacy with the viewer was retained. When they told their stories of joining Siamsa, it felt as if we had all been there with them.
Sarah Fennell and Laura Lundy
Sarah Fennell and Laura Lundy’s workshop was energetic. They brought a modern twist to the traditional steps. They started with a cardio warm up and invited the participants through structured improvisation tasks around some steps from their performance. I found their one-two-three performance very humorous. I like the idea that Steve mentioned that dancers are pure clowns: ‘this is how things work in my world, come with me.’ Both in workshop and performance, Sarah and Laura worked with music that was not traditionally composed for Irish dance. This produced a way of stepping which resembled the styles of percussive dance which stem from West African Step Dance and tap dance. It was very captivating to observe how they juxtaposed a percussive step over an existing rhythm so that they complemented each other perfectly.
Kristyn Fontanella and Moya Sweeney
Kristyn Fontanella started her class with a gentle full body warm up. She taught participants some repertoire choreography, explaining a little about its origins. This was my favourite class. Although the focus was still on the footwork, the movements were loose and facilitated us to change directions and travel through the space. Her teaching style allowed for a lot of freedom to interpret her choreography in our own way. I liked how she used images and analogies to explain the intention behind her movements. We also had a nice discussion afterward about the use of sound-making as a choreographic score. She spoke about how her teachers would send her voice recordings explaining the steps she needed to practice, and how this reminded her of lilting; an Irish singing style which often accompanied dancing when there were no instruments around. Her performance was more like a shared performative research alongside musician Moya Sweeney. This made her the narrator of the story. I liked how she incorporated video projections of her dancing in different parts of the world.
Thanks to the nature of this festival, I felt I got to know everyone involved, including the performers. This made the performances feel like more of a shared experience. It allowed me to connect and engage on many levels during the performances.
The Round-table Discussion
During the discussion we spoke about how tradition can act as both a strong foundation/support and a burden. There was a powerful image I remember from the Siamsa Tire performance, where Anne was laden down with items that were part of the traditions she was a part of; spades, straw garments, baskets, etc. Personally, I thought about how I felt somehow isolated when being introduced to these people who had strong support networks rooted in traditions and folk, as I had not grown up within these close circles. A few other people voiced similar experiences of arriving as an outsider into communities/places where music and dance tradition played a big part within that community and experiencing a sense of exclusion. In contrast, what I enjoyed most about this festival was that I felt welcomed into these traditions. Traditions that I had previously felt I couldn’t be a part of. Here traditions were being purposely shared to newcomers, so that they could be passed onto others and remembered for generations to come. One perspective we spoke about was how traditions need to adapt and evolve with the current times we live in if they are to remain relevant. By maintaining them exactly as they were, they lose their relevance to our daily lives and become historic relics of the past. I like the idea that the way in which dances and music were made can be preserved and remembered in their original form, but also challenged, modified and transformed in a modern setting, to tell the stories of today.
The ‘Landscape’ Exhibition
In addition to the dance performances and workshops, the festival included a visual art component. The ‘Landscape’ exhibition, which hung in the Echo Echo studios, exhibited the work of three artists, each with very different approaches to painting the landscape around the northwest. One artist used pixelated squares, another printed excerpts of local poetry, and another broad sweeping strokes in deep colours which emphasised the landscape in motion. What I did not previously know is that there is a strong tradition in Ireland of landscape painting, its origins dating back to Ancient Greek and Roman times. I learnt that the landscape paintings have gone through a similar process as dance and music traditions; Their prevalence declined and only began to re-emerge in the 16th century, gaining popularity in the 18th century. The tradition of landscape painting marries well with the contemporary approach to tradition that this festival takes.
Landscape exhibition artworks by Josephine Kelly, Peadar McDaid and Paul Murray – images by Simon Alleyne
After attending this festival, I feel inspired to explore traditions in music and dance and discover how I can incorporate them into my dance practice. I drew inspiration from one young participant in the festival, who shared her new game; this involved taking a step from different dances that she saw and putting them together in her own way to make a completely new dance! For me, this sums up beautifully the importance of festivals like this, and the way in which traditions and folk can be preserved and nurtured to evolve into the future.
Echo Echo Festival Presents Tradition and Beyond was supported by the Department of Tourism Culture Arts Gaeltacht Sport and Media (Ireland), Echo Echo’s Principal Funder the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, and Derry City and Strabane District Council. It was produced in partnership with Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin and Siamsa Tíre.
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.
The performance programme begins this weekend, Saturday10th/ Sunday 11th September with “The Other Selves” by Benno Voorham.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call on +44 28 71308883.
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.
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.
For Halloween we have a blood chilling sensory experience, “The Experiment”, created by light/sound artist Barry Davis and the Echo Echo Ensemble.
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.
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.
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.
Classes at Echo Echo
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com and put Body Wisdom in the subject line
This year we decided that it would be a nice idea to spend time sharing some of the beautiful images that our festival photographer Simon Alleyne captured from our past festival. We realised that over the years we have collected so many images that have not been made public, and thought this such a shame – that we really should invest the time this year in sharing these images with you. We thought this even more important as due to Covid-19 restrictions of 2021 many of the festival performances were without an ‘invited, live audience’, so we wanted to give you another opportunity to see documentation of these performances. Over the past couple of months you may have seen some of our social media posts, spotlighting images of various artists who took part in this year’s festival. Very much in keeping with the societal conditions that Covid-19 has imposed, these are all images of ‘solo’ dancers.
Many of the posts to date have been focussed on our ‘Together Alone: Solos in City’ project where 20 artists of various ages performed 3 short solos in their chosen locations around the city of Derry-Londonderry. Below we recap on the artists that we have featured and if you are interested in seeing more images, each photo links to the respective gallery post on FaceBook.
All of the site specific solos for ‘Together Alone: Solos in the City’ were performed in the first week of our festival programme in September 2021. They were filmed by local film-maker and musician Colin Norrby who then produced a short film ‘Amid the Noise and the Haste’ for which he also composed the music. The film created was a beautiful, touching, cinematic experience that was premiered at the end of the festival, accruing much positive feedback. We feel the film is really something special and greatly deserves a life beyond the festival – so we have been pondering a few ideas for the films future and how we might get it to reach wider audiences – we hope to share these plans with you in the next year.
Our retrospective social media posts have also featured images from the programme of ‘Live Stream Solos’ which formed part of the past festival. During the pandemic year we learnt a lot about how to present live-streamed work in a professional but friendly way, with several very successful Zoom performances well received by a strong multi-national audience. On four evenings of the 2021 festival, a member of the Echo Echo Ensemble performed a ‘Livestream Solo’ alongside an invited member of our Body Wisdom Programme for over 50s.
If you enjoyed viewing these images, we have many more to share – keep an eye on our social media channels. We hope to see you all again soon!
Ayesha and her daughter Naya (6years) and Tonya and her daughters Dara (9years) and Mira (6years) have recently come to the end of the first phase of ‘Painting the Canvas’, a project, in its initial stages, developed via a Zoom collaboration with Maria Svensson. They concluded the 4 week intensive research period with a performance-in-progress at Echo Echo’s Studios for a small ‘live’ audience of family and friends, and a wider zoom audience.
We got a chance to chat to the children and find out more about the project:
“It’s all about painting with parts of your body as if they are tips of a paintbrush, with different colours” exclaims Dara. Naya nods “Yes! we are painting the space with different body parts”
“In the beginning we were in a circle and one person was dancing with no crayons, just painting the canvas and then passing the ‘Hey’ to the next person” says Mira. Dara continues “Basically just dancing across the circle, but when you are dancing you imagine that you are drawing something in the air, but not like a house or anything, more squiggles, imagining that every part of your body is leaving a trace.”
“You can dance with your hands, you can dance with your feet, you can dance with your head, or even your bum, with your eyes and your nose, your mouth and your tongue – anything!” Laughs Naya.
How does it make you feel?
“Excited!” Naya shouts.
“A bit like we are in a different world, a colouring world, an imaginative, calm but exciting world” says Mira.
“Like you are drawing your own world in your own little place” says Dara “In your own little gingerbread house” adds Naya.
Howdo you think the piece changed over time?
“Now we are actually drawing whilst dancing, your limbs are dancing and you have a crayon in one hand and when you go down low, it makes a mark on the canvas” says Dara “Its like click and then you know it, you know everything” says Mira. “If you do a swirly thing, you could turn it into a snail or a firework!” exclaims Naya.
What did you think about the process and all the technicalities of making a piece?
“I was quite surprised at how many changes were made. We’d decided something and then it was like, actually this part should be completely different and I was like …ok…..we’ve only got a day left!” Says Dara.
“and its going to be really weird if you just get used to one bit, and then it gets changed into a completely different thing!” adds Mira.
What is it like working with your Mums?
“I think we are really lucky to be able to work with our Mums” says Dara “Very lucky” adds Naya “as most people don’t even get to work with their Mums” exclaims Mira.
How has it been working on Zoom with Maria ?
“Great!” They all shout
Dara continues “Maria is a very good watcher and listener, she is good at understanding the movement and emotions that people put into movement”
How are you feeling about showing your work to a few people?
“Excited and nervous all jumbled up” says Mira.
“I always like to have little performances that i’m in, I love doing performances it feels really great” Dara smiles.
”I think I feel nervous and a little bit excited” adds Naya.
Now we turn to the Mums!
We asked Ayeshato tell us her interpretation of the piece
“The idea is that the mover is leaving a trace, painting the space with movement whilst thinking about colours and the energies and textures the colours can have.”
What has it been like working with your daughters in this professional capacity?
“This project has been a gift and a surprise coming out of lockdown. It’s been great but also very challenging as you play the part of mum, instructor and colleague. Because of how we make work, the girls have been very much part of the creative process. They are holding the work, alongside us.” says Ayesha.
Tonya added “I realised that my mind goes into two different states. On one level I am thinking ‘What can we try? how should we play – what can we discover?’ – This is the playful experimental part of the process. The other side of me is like the mother ‘How do I keep their focus? are they in a bad mood today? are they hungry?’ It is double the mental work! But because we are their parents I feel like we can ask for more things, be more direct with them as we know each other so well – and they know the way Echo Echo works, so in that way they are quite advanced. On the first day I was quite nervous as I thought they would think – oh it’s just Mummy, and they wouldn’t play ball, but instead they were really, really on it! – so I was very impressed. I think because it is two adults leading them, myself and Ayesha, it gives them the feel that this is not just like being at home with mummy – there is another person to help bring their focus about.”
We asked Ayesha what she felt about working virtually with Maria?
“I kind of felt, well at least we have zoom!! It would have been much better if Maria had been in the space with us, but it was a way of her being able to observe, check in, talk to us. We have a really good working relationship with Maria, we were able to bounce backwards and forwards workshopping ideas with not too much bother – we are all on the same wave length.”
What are your thoughts about the process over time?
“We had to go through different phases of the project. Firstly the practicalities and researching the right materials to use, in terms of the canvas and the paint and cleaning products. This was a bit tedious for the kids – they kept asking ‘when are we going to dance?'” laughs Ayesha “We came across many problems getting the right materials, we still need to do a lot of research in this area” Tonya added.
“Then we got the kids into the studio and we had to remind them of the basics like movement, phrasing, clarity, focus and how we connect through movement. They hadn’t been in the studio or in a kids class for 18 months and this is a long time especially for someone who is 6 years old! But they remembered so quickly – you just had to remind them once and they were alright. So we initially tried lots of ideas and then returned to a few of them. They don’t have any issues making sense of movement. They are just so quick and natural which is great.” Tonya said.
“We now have a loose structure for the piece – but that’s far from the final version. We have many, many elements that we would like to bring into it. For example audience participation and engagement. There are different possibilities here; it could become a piece that the audience are invited into – a bit like the work of Tanzfuchs or perhaps we could run family workshops associated with the performance” says Ayesha “It has been 4 weeks altogether now adds Tonya “but it feels like we have just covered one part of the process. We have many more ideas to work on – like we want to bring a musician on board, but again we will have to look into this at another time.”
The girls are planning to meet up with Maria in ‘real time’ for the next phase of the project in October and there has been some talk of performances for primary school children and within some theatre settings. Watch this Space for the next instalment.
To read more about earlier stages of piece and the work of Maria Svensson go to our earlier blog at the following link:
Libbi Rose is a 23 year old Belfast born dancer who is currently studying Contemporary Dance at the Irish World Academy in Limerick. She participated in Echo Echo’s Contact Improvisation Festival in 2019 and since has formed a great relationship with the company and the Echo Echo Ensemble. Over the Summer of 2021, Libbi has been visiting Echo Echo on a regular basis, and the company have been supporting her exploration of movement and dance through the offer of studio time and space, in the form of a mini-residency.
We asked Libbi a bit about her background in movement:
“My introduction to dance came through exploring free movement and not through technique. Sometimes I struggle with communicating and voicing my thoughts. Dancing has helped me to open up and connect with others. I see it as a therapy. There are infinite possibilities within movement and this keeps it exciting and a constant learning process for me.”
“Over the past 7 years I have been afforded the opportunity to assist my cousin in teaching dance to young children during summer dance camps. It was great to watch the young people move increasingly freely and creatively as they became more confident over time. I definitely learnt a lot from this experience. Through attending formal dance classes I have been introduced to contemporary, jazz and ballet techniques and principles and in 2019 I was very happy to have the chance to partake in the Global Waters Project, with Maria Sinnecker.
When visiting Berlin I took part in a dance-theatre project and was instinctively drawn towards a dancing possibility. The approach to dance and performance I encountered there was so different from anything I had previously experienced! I am very happy to be now studying contemporary dance at the Irish World Academy in Limerick. My understanding of how and why my body moves and of dancing in general has been evolving and growing through varied experiences, and my passion increasing with each of them. To me dance is like a tree! The more I learn, the more intricate and detailed the branches become, every branch being unique and interconnected.”
We asked Libbi about her experience of Echo Echo:
“Attending the Contact Improvisation Festival 2019 in Echo Echo Dance Studios in Derry was an unforgettable experience, I learnt so much. It greatly expanded my understanding and outlook of dance, as well as connecting me with a vibrant community of people. When I first entered Echo Echo’s doors, I instantly felt welcome and inspired. The building itself alongside the people there provide a buzzy, yet open atmosphere. A perfect storm for creating work. Dance is valued as both an art form and a tool for bringing people together. I look forward to spending more time here!”
As part of Echo Echo’s summer long Digital Programme we are releasing a free online course for over 50s. This course of 8 sessions is for anyone who is interested in dance and movement and offers a relaxed and gentle exploration of how to move in a more poetic way. The course is supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and is led by experienced Echo Echo Ensemble member, Kelly Quigley.
“The course starts from the perspective that the wisdom you have gained from life resides within your cells and is waiting to be accessed for the purpose of dancing and creating dancing”
You can sign-up for free to the Digital Body Wisdom programme at the link provided below and we will email you a playlist with the 8 sessions. The classes can be accessed online at any time from the comfort of your own home. Below is a little clip to give you a taster.
The digital course is an extension of Echo Echo’s popular ‘real time’ Body Wisdom class for 50 years+, which has been running for over 10 years. If you enjoy the digital programme, why not get in contact with us to try out our next ‘in-person’ Body Wisdom classes which will be starting up again this September and is open to new members in our dance studios on Magazine Street.
A regular Body Wisdom Participant says:
“I have a big smile on my face by the end of each session regardless of how I felt before. It’s a place I am accepted and encouraged unconditionally. Any perceived limitations are not the point, the point is to explore the limitless possibilities of my expression exactly as I am.”
Sign up for Digital Body Wisdom course here, we would love for you to join us:
Last week Ayesha and Tonya were working in the studios with their beautiful daughters on a research and development project in collaboration with long term Echo Echo colleague and friend Maria Svensson (via zoom!).
We asked Maria about the project:
” I was originally awarded a bursary from the Arts Council of Ireland to research and develop a new dance piece for children, together with Ayesha Mailey, and to take time to up-skill my ‘Poetic Movement’ practice. The plan was to work both in the Echo Echo studios and in Culturlann Sweeney in Kilkee County Clare thanks to support from Clare County Council. As part of the bursary I would also attend the Baboró International Festival for Children in Galway. However, when I applied for the bursary I didn’t know I was about to get pregnant or that we would be experiencing a world-wide pandemic! Therefore, due to Covid restrictions and the reality of nursing a newborn baby, I had to rethink my bursary plans. Ayesha came up with the idea of me taking more of a director role which made a lot of sense.”
“I then had the idea of Ayesha working together with her daughter Naya, continuing a process I started in November 2020 when I was granted a HATCH 2020 Award from Dance Ireland. This award supported me to make a short video together with my seven year old friend Rosie Mc Hale Noone called Amongst Angels and Butterflies. In the video myself and Rosie move on a big bed sheet using crayons. This idea came from a piece I did for Cruinniú na nÓg 2020 funded by Creative Ireland Clare, which came from working together with visual artist Regina Carbayo as part of BEAG at Graffiti Theatre Company in Cork. Together myself and Regina created a short piece for children aged 0-3 called Paper-Pond Play. As part of the piece myself and Regina would use crayons, movement and sounds to unfold a simple story on a big sheet of paper. The children would then be invited to join us on the paper. I also created a piece using a similar idea with a group of students from Ardfert National School called Movement on Canvas which was performed outside the tourist office in Tralee as part of Cruinniú na nÓg 2018.”
“After speaking to Ayesha about having her daughter Naya join her, Ayesha suggested asking Tonya and her two girls Mira and Dara if they would also like to be part of the project which I thought was brilliant. I would join in via zoom. Because we share the same poetic movement approach I find that Ayesha and Tonya get me, and what it is that I’m interested in. Naya, Mira and Dara are all experienced dancers and also extremely talented which is helpful as the process is very short. It’s just beautiful to see them all at work. So far nursing my wee baby boy whilst directing these intuitive and brilliant dancers works really well and I’m excited to share our work soon with an audience in Derry as well as Clare, and perhaps with even more people thanks to technology.
The piece doesn’t have a title as such yet but so far we’re using the term ‘Painting the Canvas’ which I’ve taken from dance artist Kirstie Simson. I love her work and the idea of painting the space with your movements.”