Monday, February 22, 2016

Dance Emergency/ Damhsa na hEigeandala at the 44th Lincoln Center NYC Dance on Camera Festival

Post-Show Discussion with Liz Wolf, Co-Curator of 44th Dance on Camera Festival

It was a dream, and an honour to see my TG4 Splanc! film Dance Emergency/ Damhsa na hEigeandala screened larger than life on the magnificent Walter Reade Theatre’s 32 X 18 foot screen on February 12th, opening night of the 44th Lincoln Center Dance on Screen Festival.  In the music of the Irish language (with subtitles), Erina Brady’s forgotten story beamed out,  to an esteemed audience of New York’s most in-the-know dance on screen afficionados.  They wondered how they had never before heard of this unknown modern dance pioneer, and were thrilled to savour seldom-seen Isadora Duncan style movement (choreographed by Jessica Kennedy).  One Dance Films Association stalwart told me that many felt the spirit of the founder of the Dance on Screen Festival was in the house, as she was a big Isadora Duncan fan.  

I was over-awed and a little daunted to find myself sitting next to Pat Birch, legendary choreographer of Grease (and many more iconic productions), who was being honoured by the festival.  She laughed and gasped as the unlikely tale of Ireland’s Irish-German Modern Dance pioneer unravelled on the big screen, and when the credits started to roll turned to me and said “That’s wonderful”.  I couldn’t imagine higher praise, from a better source.    The audience were spellbound by Olwen Fouere’s uncanny embodiment of Erina Brady, intermixed with archive footage by Liam O Laoghaire of Brady herself; Jessica Kennedy’s choreography, and the exciting, little known Bohemian world of Emergency Dublin, to which the late Patrick Scott bore first-hand witness.  They were delighted to hear Declan Kiberd’s expert commentary, as well as to hear the heartfelt testimony of Erina Brady’s family members, and the myriad of other contributors and wonderful dancers.  Thanks to support from Culture Ireland, co-curator of the Festival, Liz Wolff, hosted a fascinating Q & A afterwards, and I was heartened by the level of genuine interest and engagement with the film from the packed audience.  Erina Brady had always wanted to bring her work to North America, and here it was finally happening, albeit 70 years later.  A truly wonderful experience that will hopefully open more doors to share the film, and Erina’s story further.
Photo by John Breen
Photo by Pat Schneider

The rest of the 44th edition of the prestigious Lincoln Center Dance on Camera festival was a joy to behold, from dance historical films on Bessie Schoenberg and Ted Shawn to experimental shorts and the closing film “Since Feelings are Facts”, on the great Yvonne Rainer, who I had the good fortune to do a “Trio A” workshop with in Dublin’s Dance House while Laurie Uprichard was director of Dublin Dance Festival a few years back.  Thanks to all who made this inspiring experience possible, from Culture Ireland who supported my trip, to Galen Bremer, Liz Wolff, Joanna Ney, and the entire Dance on camera team and the panel who selected my film for the festival.  It was also great to get the opportunity to connect with my fellow Dance Films Association Members, and long may our association last!
Julliard School

NYU Glucksman Ireland House
While in New York I also got to give a talk entitled “Contexts: Who Was Ireland’s First Modern Dancer?” to Jean Butler’s class at NYU’s Gluckman Ireland House, a lovely, engaged bunch of students who had come to see Dance Emergency/ Damhsa na hEigeandala at the Dance on Screen Festival.  It was a pleasure to have the opportunity to share my ongoing research with these bright young people. 

In an instance of good timing, I also got to attend Dance Emergency interviewee John Scott’s New York premiere of his wonderful show “Lear” at New York Live Arts, and to intersect with none other than the brilliant Olwen Fouere herself, who arrived to the big apple to install her film “Cassandra” at Irish Arts Center in the 2016 Centenary programme “Proclamation”.  I also saw Dan O’Brien’s interesting play “The Body of an American” at Cherry Lane Theater in the fabulous West Village where I stayed with a good friend (I’m blessed to have some of those in NYC),  for a few days.  And I learned about the latest phenomenon to take New York (and Obama himself, who has seen it twice so far) by storm, the hip hop musical, “Hamilton”. Check it. 
UCD Alumni Reception at Mutual of America, NYC. Feb 10th, 2016: Yours Truly, Aine Duffy, Brendan Ward, HE Anne Anderson, Irish Ambassador to USA

Oh, and there was also this UCD Alumni Event at Mutual of America, where I met many a happening UCD Alumnus, including the Irish Ambassador to America, HE Anne Anderson:

And now I’m home, energised and inspired by Dance on Camera Festival and the eternal creative Mecca that is New York City. 

Thanks again to Culture Ireland for supporting my trip, and the telling of Erina Brady’s extraordinary lost tale to North America.  #IAmIreland

Saturday, May 30, 2015

"Come Dance with Me" at the Art Park

Celebrating our overlooked dance legacy, I co-curated this projection “Come Dance with Me” at the Art Park – Ireland’s largest outdoor screen, at Spencer Dock, behind Conference Centre Dublin – on the occasion of Liz Roche Company’s “Bastard Amber”, the first ever commissioned Irish contemporary dance piece for the Abbey Theatre main stage, which premiered as part of Dublin Dance Festival 2015.  Here it is on vimeo, if you haven’t been able to catch it from the Luas yet:

It’s running from 10pm – 1am daily until the middle of June.

I was also on Arts Tonight with Vincent Woods earlier this month, interviewing choreographer Liz Roche, and composer Ray Harman (during their rehearsals at Dance House), about their contributions to “Bastard Amber” at the Abbey Theatre as part of the Dublin Dance Festival (May 19th – 30th).  The fact that it’s the first commissioned Irish Contemporary Dance piece on the Abbey theatre main stage got us talking about WB Yeats, Ninette de Valois, and the shortlived (1927 – 1933) Abbey Theatre Ballets; as well as "Come Dance with Me", celebrating our considerable (but often overlooked), dance legacy at The Art Park.  This also led to the mention of an anecdote the late Saoi of Aosdana Patrick Scott related to me of his young 19 year-old self’s auspicious chance encounter with the Ballets Jooss and their epic anti-war ballet “The Green Table” in Dublin at the outbreak of World War Two. 

So we can only imagine he would be delighted with his influence on Liz Roche’s contemporary dance show at the Abbey.

In case this and the Dublin Dance Festival is of interest, you can listen back to the full programme here:!rii=9:10415652:1538:11-05-2015:

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Out There Productions and the Beara-ble Lightness of Being in West Cork!

It is raining cats and dogs in Dublin as I write this.  A dirty day to beat all other dirty days.  It now seems like a dream that I was in a pocket of sunshine out on the remote Beara Peninsula, West Cork, a week ago with Out There Productions.  Paradoxically, it was the Oscar Wilde Statue in Dublin's Merrion Square that brought us to Beara.
Geraldine and Danny Osborne, in Danny's studio with elements of Oscar

For this remote outpost of Ireland is where intrepid sculptor Danny Osborne made his masterpiece Oscar Wilde Memorial Statue, and we are making a short documentary on this delightful and most fascinating subject.     It took me all of eight hours to drive there, in my stalwart jalopy.  It should take at least two hours less than that, and I take full responsibility for the extra two.  But I got there, laden with all the lighting and filming equipment in tact.  The tribulations of the journey, and the repeated attempts at getting the car over the top of various hills (seriously!) dissolved the minute I set eyes on the spectacular view from my destination the edge of the Beara Peninsula.

This is the reason mysterious places like Dun Aengus are where they are, I reckon.  No surprise then that the Buddhist Meditation centre Dzogchen Beara, which was at the top of my "to check out" list was also nearby, drawn no doubt towards the spectacular, almost abstract, view of sky and sea.

I was in a magic zone, where donkey sanctuaries and animals with special needs (for example the one-legged gannet) rule.  An artist and meditator-strewn peninsula.
Mia Mullarkey, DOP & Editor

Mia Mullarkey, our DOP and editor, followed down by train to Cork, and mini-bus to Castletownbere.  The sun came out, Lanzarote-style for our shoot. 
Bord Failte will be delighted with the immortalisation of these weather conditions. 
The shoot went well, and I dropped Mia back for her 8.30pm train from Cork to Dublin.
Danny Osborne's Studio
Selfie with Danny and Oscar in Studio

The next morning the clouds had moved in across our view and it was lashing rain.  A day pretty much like today.  I was delighted though, that the shoot was on the right side of that grey deluge. Where there was blue, as far as the eye could see, and blinding light, now all was shrouded in steely grey.  You would never guess what lay behind it, if you didn't already know.
Sarah Walker Gallery, Castletownbere
 On the way home to Dublin I took at pitstop at the amazing Sarah Walker Gallery on the Harbour at Castletownbere, and among many other lovely things in the group show, admired paintings by Tempy Osborne (daughter of Danny and Geraldine).  The gallery doubles up as a gig venue too for "High Tide at the Sarah Walker Gallery". Hope I make one of those some time.
Interior, Sarah Walker Gallery, Castletownbere

View out the door, Sarah Walker Gallery

Paintings by Tempy Osborne at Sarah Walker Gallery

Now safely back in the big shmoke (the drive back took five and a half hours, I'm getting better at this), I'm looking forward to putting this video together over the next couple of weeks, in between other engagements connected with the impending Dublin Dance Festival - more of which anon!

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…