Friday, April 10, 2015

Erina Brady immortalised, and recognised, in Tanz Magazin this month

My contributor copy of this month's Tanz Magazin just arrived in the post! I'm thrilled to see Erina Brady getting (long overdue) recognition for her overlooked contribution to Irish cultural history in this month's edition of this important publication! There is the mighty Olwen Fouere as Erina Brady between takes in CoisCeim Dance Studio where we re-created and shot the 1940s Boho Dublin "Bottle and Pyjama Party" scene, choreographed by Jessica Kennedy of Junk Ensemble.  Taking their twirl as 1940s Bohemians on the set of this imagined Bottle & Pyjama Party we have Liadain Herriott Gary Farrelly Helen McNulty Megan Kennedy Marc Brady and Dragana Jurisic (Dragana also took the on-set photographs). The lovely photo of Erina and her dog Scamp in her Brione hammock in the 1950s is taken by the great Walter Kuhn (original dancer with the Ballets Jooss, and husband to Ireland's first modern dancer, the late June Kuhn).  Tanz Magazin published an adaptation of my script for Dance Emergency, translated into German by Marc Staudacher.  The English text is available at


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Journey to YU and the Belgrade-Irish Festival 2015 :-)

Belgrade, where the River Danube and the River Sava meet.
I was honoured to be invited to present work at this year’s Belgrade-Irish Festival by Dubliner Jas Kaminski, director of the festival which is in its 3rd year.

I had emailed Jas to let him know about my photo-documentary project “Journey to YU (in the footsteps of Rebecca West), about Dragana Jurisic’s extraordinary RHA and Belfast Exposed exhibition “YU – The Lost Country”, when it was but a Kickstarter project, in December 2014. The three of us met for coffee in Temple Bar when he was home  for Christmas, after which he said he would like to schedule our project about Rebecca West, Dragana Jurisic's photography and former Yugoslavia as part of his 2015 festival. In a world that is full of waffle, and “plans” that don’t materialise, fair play to Jas for seeing this one through with flying colours.

True to his word, he flew both myself and Dragana to Belgrade on March 14th, and kindly hosted the world premiere of “Journey to YU (in the footsteps of Rebecca West)” to a packed house (there weren’t enough chairs for everyone), in UK Parabrod, a gorgeous 1920s Belgrade Arts Centre whose name means “Steamship”.

The audience was wide-ranging, from a Serbian Orthodox priest and his family, to Dragana’s mother, sister-in-law, cousins, to the cool intelligentsia of Belgrade (there are many of the latter).

It was nerve-wracking premiering work which touched on sensitive topics such as the recent wars and its traumatic effects in front of such an audience.

How can I put this, we were the opposite of smug, and ready for any kind of landmine to explode. So you can imagine the relief when people poured out of the screening extremely moved. Apparently the personal truths recounted in the documentary managed to sidestep anything that might be considered partisan or offensive to anyone. Phew!  The documentary was screened once more on March 18th  to another fascinating audience, many of whom came out teary-eyed, in empathy and recognition at what they had just witnessed, and in admiration of Dragana’s brave art.
Dragana’s beautiful, lateral images as she followed in Rebecca West’s 1930s footsteps were another emotional and aesthetic boon. So it was a huge success, and I am very grateful to the team at Belgrade-Irish Festival for giving us this opportunity to premiere Journey to YU in Belgrade itself - also highlighting the connections between Ireland and the intriguing region.

The next day was St. Patrick’s day.  Like a good cailin I donned my Sharon Beatty Emerald Green Dress, and made my way to Belgrade University’s Department of Philology to deliver a talk on the amazing WB Yeats, in introduction to an excerpt of “Just the Lads” Balkan version of one of his Plays for Dancers, “The Dreaming of the Bones”.
It was a heartening and energising experience to share the news of WBY and his eclecticism to these young Serbian students, who soaked it all up for future reference.

Next stop was the floating restaurant Corso, where his excellency the Irish Ambassador to Greece and the region, Noel Kilkenny, ceremoniously turned the Ada bridge green after sunset in honour of our patron Saint.

It was a wonderful evening, in the presence of Irish living in the region, as well as Ambassadors of several other nations. I was delighted to see Garret Tankosic-Kelly, originally from Limerick, arrive from Sarajevo (where he has been living for more than two decades), with his partner Nerma Sofic adding his charisma into the mix. Belgrade is well known to be a party capital, and many of us proceeded to dutifully burn the candle at both ends.
Life being short, of course that approach is de rigueur to make the most of such rare and special opportunities for “inter-cultural dialogue”!

On Friday evening, BIF presented my TG4 documentary “Dance Emergency”/ “Damhsa na hEigeandala” to an intrigued and very engaged audience in Parabrod's lovely cinema space.

A lively post-show discussion ensued. People were fascinated to discover this unknown, embodied Bohemian dimension to Ireland during “The Emergency”, and of course were enthralled by Olwen Fouere’s riveting performance as the exotic Irish-German Erina Brady. Fouere’s voice as Rebecca West had also stopped quite a few audience members in their tracks in “Journey to YU…” earlier in the week. There was also a promise from a Serbian Dance Afficionado to translate the script for Dance Emergency, which is appearing in German and English in Tanz Magazin next month, into Serbian. That would be wonderful - I'll keep you posted...
Brian Willis at Kinotek, Belgrade, after "Short Order" screening

As part of the BIF programme I was thrilled to catch a luscious 35mm print of Neil Jordan’s first film “Angel” at the Kinoteka, as well as Brian Willis’s gorgeous feature “Short Order”, including a discussion with the producer himself who was in the house with his brother Ian.
Lisa Hannigan brought the packed house down with her dulcet tones as festival headliner in Duomo and made us all proud to be Irish. For her finale she performed a jam with local band Stray Dogg (who supported), and did a Sean Nos style rendition of Seamus Heaney poem Anahorish.  Magic.  And yes, we watched the rugby, in an Irish pub of course.

As you can imagine, the 9 days were action-packed with other inter-cultural extra-curricular activity like dancing to live Balkan Bossa Nova at one of our (several) new friend’s birthday party until dawn (it would be rude not to!), and checking out a rave with the Bosnian Beatshakers in top Guardian-recommended nightspot Mixer.
Yes, we familiarised ourselves with Rakija. Another old Dublin friend, Orla Rutten, jumped at the opportunity to discover Belgrade and catch up over strolls in Ada (Belgrade’s answer to the Hamptons), flying across from Holland.
We were lucky to be accommodated in funky Belgrade hotspot Smokvica, where you just had to sit out in the sunny courtyard, or down in the buzzing restaurant area to connect with the pulse of cool Belgrade.  This is a buzzing city, full of upbeat energy.

I’m glad I got to meet the busy Dijana Milosevic of DAH Theatre, for coffee and a cake in her sister’s exquisite cake shop, the poetically titled Little Prince. I was fortunate to encounter Dijana at the “Theatre and War” Symposium at Dublin’s Abbey Theatre in January, which led to her short and significant contribution to “Journey to YU (in the footsteps of Rebecca West)". Among many other projects, I was intrigued to hear of her current important work with “Women in Black”, establishing a female court for female survivors of violence and rape during the war – which will emerge into the light of day this June (marking the 20 year anniversary of Srebeniza), in an 800-seater theatre, so I will be keeping my eyes peeled for that.

After the solar eclipse, which I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of through a public telescope while out on a run through Kalamegdon / Belgrade Fortress (While making an effort to train for the 10km “Great Run” in Phoenix Park on April 11th) our final event was another presentation on the cosmic world of WB Yeats at Kulturini Centar Beograda on World Poetry Day.

The place was jam-packed - with many poets in the house, we were told.
We treated them to a select few of Donnacha Dennehy’s settings of Yeats poems performed by Dawn Upshaw and the Crash Ensemble from his CD “Gra agus Bas”, after an introduction by yours truly, followed by an excerpt from my radio documentary “WB Yeats – Words for Music Perhaps”, renditions of the poems by Liadain Kaminska ni Bhraonain and Joan Somers Donnelly (from Just the Lads theatre company), and a short presentation by local PhD candidate Stefan Pejic, including Irish poems translated to Serbian. So there was something for everyone in the audience.

I am writing this now in Temple Bar Gallery and Studios (alas my final week moonlighting here) so have made it home in one piece and live to tell the tale! Belgrade-Irish Festival was a fabulous experience, and huge thanks are due to the BIF team, Jas Kaminski, Aleksandra Samardzik  and Nikola Todorovic for all their hard work, super design, and good humour in putting all of this together. Thank-you for an unforgettable nine days which will hopefully snowball into more wonderful intercultural connections between our two countries, and ourselves. I could go on, but better to stop here for now! To be continued…

Monday, February 2, 2015

Last week to catch "Dance Emergency" on RTE Player this week

Happy February!  Can't you feel the old stretch in the evenings already? It may not be getting any warmer, but the evenings are definitely extending, and I think nightfall is staying off until about 5.40pm now - and sliding forward, slowly but surely.

In other good news, we are over the moon that we got our Kickstarter Campaign to make "Journey to YU" (in the footsteps of Rebecca West) on the deadline, January 15th, thanks to 52 fantastic microphilanthropists/ believers.  The first interview, with Dijana Milosevic of Belgrade's DAH Theatre (she was over visiting Dublin at the Abbey Theatre of War Symposium last month), is already in the can, and we are going full steam ahead this week with Dragana Jurisic herself on Tuesday morning, and continuing on from there to our premiere screening deadline at the Belgrade-Irish Festival on St. Patrick's week in Belgrade.  How exciting!  And of course nothing like a deadline to focus the mind.  We are really looking forward to sharing this work for you.  As for me, I have been cramming the history of the Balkans over Christmas, New Year, and the whole month of January, so I am in my favourite place - on a steep learning curve! Also - hopefully the eagle (the actual dough), will land this week, as you can imagine I have a lot of outstanding expenses on this one so far.

So - to the title of this post - it's the last week to catch "Damhsa na hEigeandala"/ "Dance Emergency" on the TG4 Player, where it resides for you to watch and pick up a few dance steps until February 7th.  Here's a link:

OK that looks a bit inelegant, but I can't figure out how to embed it. So just click on it and enjoy Olwen Fouere's transcendent performance as the mysterious Irish-German Modern Dance Pioneer one more time.   Have another glimpse at former Saoi of Aosdana, the late Patrick Scott reminiscing fondly about his Emergency Dublin Bohemian pals, the White Stag Art Group.  Be mesmerised by Jessica Kennedy's gorgeous choreography, starring young contemporary dancers Karen Gleeson and Lucia Kickham, flanked by the beautiful students of Joanna Banks' College of Dance.  And don't forget to consider emulating a bottle and pyjama party, which in this case features real contemporary Dublin Bohemians the true descendants of our 1940s Dublin Boho Artists  - Gary Farrelly, Marc Brady, Liadain Herriott, Helen McNulty,  Dragana Jurisic, and Megan Kennedy. 


:-)    Deirdre

PS Happy James Joyce Birthday, he was born on this day in 1882.  Apparently his father Stanislaus' dying words were "tell Jim he was born at 6am".  So there!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Journey to YU (in the footsteps of Rebecca West)" Help us on our Kickstarter Campaign to make radio doc/ audio slideshow

Launched first ever kickstarter campaign on December 1st to make audio slideshow/ radio documentary on photographer Dragana Jurisic's photographic pilgrimage in the footsteps of Rebecca West's 1930s epic travelogue to her former homeland - Yugoslavia "Black Lamb and Grey Falcon".

We had fun making the extremely lo-fi pitch video overlooking East Essex Street in Temple Bar last Saturday, despite the fact that I am struck down with an awful cold!  I am currently making my way through West's 1,100 page "sort of metaphysical Lonely Planet" for former Yugoslavia, have left Croatia and am currently in Dalmatia (have to go visit there!).  Talk about a sea of stories!  Dying to learn more about former Yugoslavia, and explore it through a myriad of expert voices including Dragana's herself in making this documentary.  Please help us make that happen!  There are loads of great rewards, including a really good value limited edition print from an up and coming art star.  Seriously, I am well known to have an excellent eye for talent so trust me.  And if you don't, trust all the awards she has garnered, and shows she has had lately.  A great investment!  Dragana's prints were selling for €2,000 at her recent RHA show "YU: The Lost Country", on which this documentary is based, and we have a special limited edition print from the series for €250, including a few other goodies.  So do a good deed, be a kind micro-philanthropist and let us help you fill your Christmas stocking in an uber-cultured way!  :-)

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Magic 1943 - A Dance Odyssey Reunion - a few photos from the night

Waiting for the Audience... 
My uncle Tom O'Brien arrives! Family here.  Tick.
Arrivals - many more than expected: Bruce Arnold & Philip Harvey of UCD Bookshop in foreground

Introducing the film, the evening, the fire exits... 
THE STARS (seated, from left): Barbara Sweetman Fitzgerald, Romy Hogan, Jennifer Kearney, Biddy Wilson, Ann Fryer Walsh, Margaret Becker - being introduced by Ruth Barton of TCD Film Studies.

A lively, electric discussion ensues

Great interaction with the audience
Ruth Barton amplifies Biddy Wilson
We had interesting contributions and queries from the floor, from such luminaries as Architectural Historian Shane O'Toole, Director of the Goethe Institute, Mecthild Manus, Art Critic Bruce Arnold, Film-Maker Steve Woods, Rossa O Snodaigh of Kila (who composed the original film score), and choreographer John Scott, who met Erina Brady's influential pupil Jacqueline Robinson, founder of l'Atelier de la Danse in Paris, among others.

The wonderful audience! Steve Woods suggests we lobby for a plaque to Erina Brady's Irish School of Dance Art at 39 Harcourt Street.  Ruth Barton asks everyone to leave their email addresses so we can start a formal petition for this.  Great ideas and calls to action emerging!

Afterwards: Deep in Conversation: Barbara Sweetman Fitzgerald & Peter Sheridan; Jennifer Kearney & Biddy Wilson; Margaret Becker &... basically everybody...

At the Reception: Re-enacting The Green Table with Olwen Fouere and Walter Kuhn (who played The Young Soldier in Kurt Jooss's production).  Tom Hickey close at hand. 
Above: Tom Hickey and Caroline Stephenson (daughter of 1940s tiny tot).
Biddy Wilson (centre) & Jennifer Kearney (left ) newly discovered 1940s Modern Dancing Tiny Tots who shared their memories of Erina Brady with us in the post-show discussion.

Thanks to David Tully for taking most of these photographs, and to all who helped to make this people-powered event happen: Marie Therese McKenna & James Coyle for sponsorship of the wine reception; Sonja Ewen, Sebastian Stephenson, Michelle Sweetman and Caroline Stephenson for contributing delicious canapes; Ruth Barton for hosting, and moderating the post-show discussion; Francis Thackaberry & Mick Canney of Samuel Beckett Theatre; everybody who bought tickets and energised the room and inspired discussion.  Also thanks to all 63+ kind micro-philanthropists who contributed to the crowd-funding campaign for the making of the film.  It's the people.