Tuesday, October 21, 2014

On the final countdown to 1943 - A Dance Odyssey special reunion screening moderated by Ruth Barton of TCD Film Studies!

It is quite exciting to be just one week away from the special reunion screening of 1943 - A Dance Odyssey at TCD Samuel Beckett Theatre, today week Tuesday October 28th, in celebration of the 1940s tiny tots (who will be present), kindly moderated by Ruth Barton of TCD Film Studies. 
A lot of work has gone into this event, and I am very grateful to all who have helped, and made it possible.  Particular thanks go to Ruth Barton, Francis Thackaberry and all the staff at TCD Samuel Beckett Theatre.  Also friends, sponsors, and helpers who are making this into a great people-powered event.  I'll write more here after the event, but in the meantime, please don't forget to book your tickets at www.tcd.ie/Beckett-Theatre, as they are going fast!
(thanks to Jensine-Bethna Wall for designing the flier).

Yo Camino

Yo Camino.

Apologies for the gap in updates, but since Galway Film Fleadh I have been on the road, focusing on putting one foot in front of the other.  It gets all-absorbing.    But first, on August 1st (yes that far back!) I had the honour of giving my first ever session at the Yeats Summerschool in Sligo - "WB Yeats: Words for Music Perhaps" at the Methodist Church on Wine street.  Through a friend of a friend I got the apt opportunity to reside at Lissadell Gate Lodge, no less, which coincidentally (or not?) happened to be a haven of psalteries, hajouj's and other Yeatsian-prescribed instruments I was talking about in my radio documentary/power point presentation the next day.
Spooky or just plain Yeatsian? (I'd say the latter).  On the way in from Lissadell Lodge to give my presentation, having given the above psaltery a bit of an old strum myself, I popped off at Drumcliff Church for the first time ever, to have a goo and to pay my respects at Yeats' and George's grave - and to ask for a blessing on the psalteries and all talk of them that day. 
The spirits came down and answered me soon enough in the form of a contrary remote control clicker that refused to do as it was told for the power point presentation, and a CD player that stopped, started, and spluttered throughout the radio documentary.  It was a bit like WBY meets Krapp's Last Tape, but luckily the audience were well seasoned Yeatsians, and were totally understanding and even appreciative of these moody "spirits" making their presence felt!  ;)  I have to say I really enjoyed the interaction and feedback with the audience that day, and am very grateful for the invitation to be part of that fine Sligo tradition that is the Yeats Summerschool.  I wished I could have hung out in Sligo with my fabulous new friends longer, but I had a plane to catch to Biarritz on August 5th, from where I was going to set out on the Camino - for once and for all.  Enough procrastinating, and talking around and about it.  The time for action and putting one foot in front of the other had arrived! But first, in great trepidation, taking my footwear seriously, I got my feet measured for Camino shoes at The Great Outdoors:
 Nothing like the practicalities of fear of blisters [blister-phobia?] to take one's mind off of the esoteric and Yeatsian hauntings! A friend kindly lent me all her Camino gear - rucksack, walking sticks, guidebook, first aid kit, travel towel, and money belt, in the first of many super acts of camaraderie I would benefit and learn from on what was to turn out to be a 355km walk in 15 days this time around - into the unknown.  Out of my comfort zone and into the random kindness of the camino universe.  355 km later I think that kind of solidarity you experience on that road is one of its greatest benefits and lessons.  It restored my eroded and waning faith in humanity anyway! At Biarritz airport, I found two fellow solo pegegrinos, and we traveled together to St. Jean Pied de Port by bus and train (surrounded by French boy scouts).  We went together to get our pilgrim passports, and got our first stamp before heading off - in the wrong direction of course! - before being sent back up that hill we should have been climbing, not descending...
Of course, we had to learn the lesson of the yellow arrows first and foremost.  Follow the yellow arrows... put one foot in front of the other.  I had intended on chilling out in St. Jean Pied de Port, a super quaint French mountain village for a night, but seen as my newly discovered Peregrinos were set on getting over the Pyrenees that very day to Roncevalles, I thought the least I could do would be to set out with them, and wave them off after the first 10km.  So that is how I got a bit of a head start on myself, by getting a push from their ambition and energy.  At the end of that arduous and high-achieving (literally), day, all three of us ended up 10km up the mountain in the mirage-like oasis that is l'Auberge d'Orisson.  Ah, heaven.  I don't know how I arrived before the other two, staring at my feet, filming the odd cow or two and taking the only selfies of my trip, but I did.  A miracle! 
We were now above the clouds and on our way.  The first hand-washing of the journey.  The first bunkbeds.  The first communal meal, and all the languages that might entail (in this case just French and English, though the next night I'd be trying on Portuguese with Brasilians).  The first stretching out of the sleep-sheets.  The first negotiation of hostel shower.  The first rubbing of vaseline between toes.  The first setting of the phone alarm for at least 6am.  The first moving in the dark before dawn and losing of things in the anxious rush to get on the road.  The camino had begun, and all its practicalities, which actually prevent lofty thoughts (thankfully).    When I got home I recovered some poignant utterances like this: "Solvitar ambulando" - "It is solved by walking" (from The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin).  But while there, I was with Walt Whitman and his paean "O public road... /You express me better than I can express myself/ You shall be more to me than my poem".  I was surviving.  Meeting people and having fun.  Enjoying the company and the camaraderie.  Focusing on keeping going.  The sights going over the Pyrenees were of the spectacular variety.  There were traces of religion everywhere of course, but that didn't intrude on or dominate the experience. 
Though it provided a reassuring and sometimes beautiful unobtrusive backdrop to the experience, (which I believe is now mostly secular).  Somewhere in the Pyrenees I think near this Fontaine de Roland we crossed over from the benign French Pays Basque into the more pugnacious Spanish Basque Country.

There were free mountain springs and water fountains all along the way.  Some days to avoid the heat of early afternoon, we started out under a full moon, some with torches on their foreheads (follow that pilgrim).  Here was a typical morning view, as we set out on the road, individually and together:
All the troubles of daily life at home just fell away.  That's all irrelevant now.  Here out on the Camino, through villages, dales, cities, cathedrals, one horse towns with one bar and pilgrim hostel, and finally (for me this time), the vast open plains of the Meseta.  I made it to Fromista, walking 35km on my final day before the descent back down to Madrid, a room of my own and the unspeakable luxury of a half-bath.
I'm really looking forward to finishing the second 445km next year, Inshallah,  and reading up loads of literature and brushing up on my Spanish in the meantime.  Until then, it's all the metaphorical ongoing Camino for me.  Albeit without the yellow arrows (unfortunately!).  Yo camino. 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Premiere of "Dance Emergency"/ "Damhsa na hEigeandala" at Galway Film Fleadh, July 10th :-)

Just back from a fantastic conference at NUIG entitled "Ireland and the Emergency", with so many fascinating contributions, and a keynote by Robert Fisk, no less, who revisited the subject of his PhD at TCD on The Emergency - looking at it in context of his work in the Middle East at the moment.  Brilliant!  Yesterday morning (Saturday) I too contributed, giving a paper entitled "Emergency Encounters of the Cultural Kind", and was delighted of the opportunity to do so.  Big thanks to Dr. Mark Phelan and the Conference Organisers!  It is always such a breath of fresh air to get down to Galway, where as well as the food for thought (no wartime rationing there!), last night I discovered the oasis that is The Heron's Rest B & B on The Long Walk.  If you ever get a room there you will be very lucky, the view over Claddagh Quay is dreamy, the food, scrumptious, the vibe, perfect.
 Luckily I have the best excuse ever to return to Galway very soon again, for the screening of the 52 minute documentary I have been working on for a few years now, "Dance Emergency"/ "Damhsa na hEigeandala", on July 10th at noon in the Cinemobile along with a special screening of "1943 - A Dance Odyssey".  Would be so great to see you there, at my favourite film festival, if you are nearby,  Here is all the info and a few images to hopefully whet your appetite:
Olwen Fouere as Erina Brady, teaching class in her studio

Oh, and the trailer!:

Against the backdrop of seldom-seen 1940’s bohemian Dublin, and suspicions of Nazi espionage, we recount an Irish-German artist’s forgotten struggle to bring Modern Dance/ German Ausdruckstanz to a conservative, inchoate Ireland that was not yet ready for it.  

Olwen Fouere as Erina Brady, being interrogated by Detective James McGuire

Interpreted beautifully by the great Olwen Fouere, choreographed by Jessica Kennedy of Junk Ensemble, we frame Erina Brady’s legacy in the context of the thriving contemporary dance scene in Ireland today. 
Olwen Fouere as Erina Brady, being monitored by Peter Sheridan, as Detective James McGuire
  Interviewees include the late Patrick Scott, Rionach Ni Neill, Fearghus O Conchuir, Declan Kiberd, and others.  Actors include Peter Sheridan, Tom Hickey, Pat Laffan, Michael James Ford, Una Kavanagh, Zena Donnelly, and Niamh Shaw.   
Olwen Fouere as Erina Brady, being interrogated by Peter Sheridan, as Detective James McGuire
Written & Directed by Deirdre Mulrooney
Produced by Midas Productions for TG4 Splanc!
Original Score by Conor Linehan
Running Time: 52 mins

Margaret Becker, in Liam O Laoghaire's 1943 film "Dance School"
There will also be a special screening of the related “1943 ­ A Dance Odyssey” in the same Galway Film Fleadh programme:

Once upon a time, during World War Two (or "The Emergency", as it was known
 in Ireland), enigmatic Irish-German woman Erina Brady brought cutting edge
Modern Dance to Ireland, from Germany.  A forgotten reel of film by Irish film industry founder Liam Ó Laoghaire immortalised the mysterious modern dancer teaching her tiny pupils in her Harcourt Street Studio and dancing freely in the open air in his 1943 gem of a film, "Dance School".

Setting eyes on this rare footage for the first time, 1943 -- A Dance Odyssey brings five of Brady's former tiny tots on an odyssey to a bygone era in her enchanted Irish School of Dance Art studio.

Seventy years on, 1943 -- A Dance Odyssey, explores who were these tiny
dancers, attempting an arabesque, and stretching out their little limbs in
barefoot dance of expression? Where did the dance of life take them?

Unlocking fond memories of those extraordinary classes the women share how
The modern dance pioneer influenced their lives, and opened them up to a
lifetime of creativity.

 Produced, Written & Directed by Deirdre Mulrooney

Featuring: The Becker Sisters: Margaret Becker, Romy Hogan, Barbara Sweetman Fitzgerald; Ann Danaher/ McGuire; Ann Fryer/Walsh.
 Shot & Edited by Mia Mullarkey

Original score by Rossa Ó Snodaigh
Running time: 25 minutes
Crowd-funded by 63  fabulous micro-philanthropists, via www.fundit.ie <http://www.fundit.ie, & by RTE.

 "The past was... another country in ‘1943 - A Dance Odyssey' in which three
sisters and two other women revisited the Harcourt Street premises where
 German-Irish Erina Brady had taught them modern dance 70 years earlier.
 Their reminiscences of this exotic, bohemian woman were touching and there was a
 haunting and affecting quality to Deirdre Mulrooney's short film"...
(John Boland, Irish Independent Weekend Review, April 6th, 2013).

Book by clicking here

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Busy times, and sad times as a great spirit passes on, but not without leaving important traces...

It has been a busy couple of months, and now suddenly here we are in full of bloom of summer.  Midsummer approaches!  During the tenth edition of Dublin Dance Festival last month, I did reports on RTE Arena, and on The Arts Show (Aileen O'Meara Productions for RTE).  I gave a talk on the lovely topic of "Patrick Scott and the Ballets Jooss" at VISUAL Carlow (wonderful space).

Sadly now however, looking back to the St. Patrick's Day Special on Dance in Ireland on RTE's The History Show with Myles Dungan, featuring a conversation between Barbara O'Connor, Diarmaid Ferriter and myself interspersed with excerpts from my 2004 radio series "Nice Moves", and interviews I set up for the show with Ann Fryer/Walsh (on her time as a pupil of Erina Brady in the 1940s) - little did we know that the great Percy Lovegrove's upbeat and heartfelt contribution to the show on the joys of ballroom dancing in 1940s and 1950s Dublin would be his last public address.   Percy, author of An Auld Cockle Picker (for which I was honoured to contribute the foreword on his late wife, Abbey School of Ballet original Doreen Cuthbert in 2008), has sadly passed away at the age of 93.

Percy generously and enthusiastically shared part of his extraordinary life story with me in my 2011 BAI-funded radio documentary "Doreen - Telling the Dancer from the Dance", about the achievements of his late wife Doreen, and her first-hand reminiscences of WB Yeats, NInette de Valois, Lennox Robinson, et al, and their subsequent life in Kenya, broadcast on RTE Lyric FM.  You can listen back here:

I was extremely fortunate to get to know Percy and Doreen, to become their friend, to be regaled and entertained by their extraordinary life experiences, to have their encouragement and support, and to learn from their words of wisdom.  Undoubtedly, discovering and getting to know one-of-a-kind people like Doreen and Percy, is one of the perks of being a dance historian and documentary maker, that make the precarity of this freelance endeavour worthwhile.  I am grateful for all the inspiration Percy gave me which I will carry forward.  If I get anywhere near his 93 years, I'll be doing well.  Any of us will.  May the extraordinary auld cockle picker rest in peace. 
Percy chatting with Wendy in front of his book display at Sweny's

Sunday, April 27, 2014

POW WOW No. ONE in Super 8 Festival at Block T, May 3rd.

Meditation in Super 8 on Childhood in a Beautiful Place, in a Small Community, in North Ontario.

I've been taping some memory reels together with F8 S automatic klebepresse - here's a picture of the machine, which I employed for the job, with a little help from Dennis Kenny of the upcomimg Super 8 Festival at Block T this Saturday May 3rd [info below]:

This is a project that has been on my mind for some time now.  In 2008 I made the [BCI-funded, broadcast on Newstalk] radio documentary "Ogoki - Call of the Wild", about bringing my mother back to Ogoki Post First Nations Reservation in North Ontario where, together with my Dad, they ran the local school in the late 1970s and early 1980s.  I was with them in Cat Lake and Ogoki Post for one year each, respectively, before I was sent back to school in Ireland.
Class Picture, Cat Lake: My Mum the teacher, right; brother Patrick, bottom right; Darragh, on steps with arm in cast; me in the middle.

My Dad started filming with Super 8, and dabbling in the DIY art of photography in the late 1960s. Inspired by photography enthusiast draft dodgers he encountered when he first moved to Toronto [from Limerick] in the late 1960s, he acquired quite a kit, some of which he bought from them.  The [Vietnam War] dodgers had their own dark room equipment, and were very into the alchemy of photography.  My dad photographed us as kids with a Yashica Mat, and filmed with Super 8.  He continued this after the move up to isolated, seldom-seen First Nations Reservations in North Ontario, but unfortunately all the film went MIA, with all the to-ing and fro-ing back and forth from Toronto to Shannon. 
Hanging out with our First Nations friends in Cat Lake.

One year ago however, after an illness in the family brought about a clear-out of one ancestral home, lo and behold two big bags of super 8 turned up.  Hooray! [Also the relative recovered well, you will be glad to know].

Thanks to Dennis Kenny, who helped me to tape together a selection of three of the reels of our recovered memory, opening a window into a seldom seen world, they will be screened at the Super 8 Festival in Block T this coming Saturday, May 3rd.  I have selected an excerpt of my radio documentary "Ogoki - Call of the Wild" to accompany, along with a track from Boards of Canada - "A Small Community in a Beautiful Place out in the Country".

You will hear about Charlie Wenjack, in Ian Adams' watershed Macleans Magazine article, as read by actor Pat Laffan.   Charlie's sister, Pearl Achneepineshkum will recount her experiences of the tragedy from the family's point of view.  My Mum, Ogoki school principal of the time, Sheila and I listen in stunned silence.  Kids (including my pale face brothers) slide down, playing chicken at the frozen edge of the river Albany.  There is dancing (guaranteed).  There is boating and fishing in Cat Lake.  It's a steely and truthful meditation on childhood in a small community in a beautiful place.

Hopefully opening a door to a new documentary project, which will be a collaboration between me and my Dad's recovered footage of yore.  Please come and tell me your thoughts. I would love to hear them.

POW WOW no. ONE is in the mixtapes section early in the day. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

"WB Yeats: Words for Music Perhaps" Radio Documentary series being re-broadcast on April 4th and 11th on RTE Lyric FM

My two part, BAI-funded radio documentary series “WB Yeats: Words for Music Perhaps”, shining light on the great Nobel Laureate’s complex and fascinating relationship to music, will be re-broadcast on RTE Lyric FM in the Lyric Feature slot on consecutive Fridays, April 4th, and April 11th, at 7pm. 

The first programme takes us on a unique sonic journey to ponder WB Yeats and his musical experiments, collaborations (from Elgar to Harry Partch), and theories during his own lifetime.  What was the great poet hearing in his inner ear?  DIT [Dublin Institute of Technology] Conservatory of Music record scores WB Yeats himself commissioned for his Plays for Dancers, from little known composers Walter Morse Rummel and Edmond Dulac, which are heard here for the first time ever. We learn about how the obscure Walter Morse Rummel met WB Yeats in esoteric London circles, and how their collaboration came about.   The first musicians ever to perform and record Rummel’s score for “The Dreaming of the Bones”, the DIT Conservatory musician-researchers share their insights into and experience of Yeats’s musicality or lack thereof. Yeatsian experts enlighten us on his theories, revealing that WB Yeats never allowed his composer/collaborators to have their own voice.  His words ruled supreme. Yeats was considered to be tone deaf by many, or at least tuned in to an “alternative” scale, as we hear in a rare BBC recording in which the poet himself sings out of tune.  Interweaving rare recordings of WB Yeats himself, we hear how towards the end of his life, the exciting new medium of radio revived his interest in and enthusiasm for, the bardic arts.  This Yeatsian sonic journey highlights how Yeats’s late radio recordings rhyme in with his early sonic experiments with Florence Farr in “Speaking to the Psaltery”, informed by the great poet’s utopian desire to bring about a democratic “magical revolution” across all echelons of society.  

Programme One is narrated by Tom Hickey, and features DIT Conservatory of Music musicians Cliona Doris (Harp and Arrangements), Tom Doorley (Irish flute), Noel Eccles (Percussion), Julie Maisel (Classical Flute), David Scott (Singer), Arun Rao (Cello), and sound recordist Ben Rawlins; "Everlasting Voices" team William Brooks (Composer), Nuala Hayes (Auto-harp), and Paul Roe (Clarinet)as well as contributions by Ron Schuchard, Margaret Mills Harper, Declan Kiberd, Harry White, Emilie Morin, and the voice of WB Yeats himself.   

The second programme explores contemporary musical interpretations of WB Yeats’s words, free of his own strictures and dicta, by great Irish composer Bill Whelan, and top Irish contemporary classical composer, Donnacha Dennehy.  In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Professor JW Flannery directed a rare season of Yeats plays at Dublin’s Abbey theatre, which WB Yeats helped to found.  We get a rare glimpse into Flannery’s creative process with the then fledgeling composer Bill Whelan, as they reminisce on those groundbreaking productions in an intimate and unguarded conversation, interwoven with excerpts of Whelan’s scores.  Actress Olwen Fouere shares her extraordinary approach to reciting Yeats’s verse in Flannery’s productions.  Whelan admits this is where he learned his metier as a theatre composer, and that his world-renowned score for Riverdance grew out of these Yeats productions.  Donnacha Dennehy finally lets us in on his journey to composing music for Ireland’s most iconic poet, from young grad student in the USA to his recent exquisite and accomplished settings of Yeats poems for soprano Dawn Upshaw in "Gra agus Bas".

Programme Two is narrated by myself, and features Bill Whelan, Jim Flannery, Olwen Fouere, and Donnacha Dennehy, as well as Yeats compositions by Whelan, Dennehy, and a tiny snippet of Sean Millar (for a Brokentalkers Yeats project that is in development), the voice of WB Yeats from the BBC archives, a hint of Harry Partch, and others, related to the story.

Producer: Deirdre Mulrooney
Writer/Researcher: Deirdre Mulrooney
Sound Supervision: John Davis
Commissioning Editor for RTE Lyric FM: Olga Buckley

Liaison Producer/ Technical Support: Eoin O’Kelly

Monday, March 17, 2014

St. Patrick's Day Special on Irish Dancing on RTE Radio One's History Show

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

I was in fine company yesterday on Myles Dungan's "History Show" on RTE Radio One, with Barbara O'Connor (author of The Irish Dancing), Diarmaid Ferriter (author of Sin, Sexuality and Society), Percy Lovegrove (Author of An Auld Cockle Picker, husband of the late Doreen Cuthbert), and Ann Fryer-Walsh (1940s Modern Dancer, who still teaches keep fit classes at the League of Health), for a St. Patrick's Day Irish Dancing Special!  We covered everything from the origin of dance in Ireland, whether there was ever a word, or a need for a word for it, to the weirdness of competition Irish dancing, to the ballroom of romance, to the glimmer of hope that was Erina Brady's Modern Dance in Emergency Dublin, to Riverdance.

Phew.  It was a Dance Talk Marathon!  You can listen back by clicking here: 


They also wrote a nice blog about it on the show's website.

In other news, WB Yeats: Words for Music Perhaps is being re-broadcast on RTE Lyric FM on Friday April 4th at 7pm and Friday April 11th at 7pm in the RTE Lyric Feature slot.  More of which anon.  Have a wonderful day.  Hope you find a nice ceili and kick up your heels! For something totally different, I'm off to "Yoga Stops Traffick" a Mysore style yoga class run by musician yogis John and Suzanne Brennan to raise money to help prevent child trafficking in India.