Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Three+1 - a dance highlight of 2008

Thanks to the Irish Times for mentioning my dance film Three+1 as one of the highlights of dance in 2008.

It refers to Rebecca Walters' Walk Don't Run too - another film of dancers' bodies negotiating the intersection at George Street and Dame Street. Wolfgang, Katherine, Rebecca and I braved traffic, pedestrians, gardai and lunacy to dance in the 15 second gaps when the traffic lights created a traffic free square of potential - potential which Rebecca spotted and persuaded the rest of us to exploit.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Thank you to Ian, Bríd and Cindy

For their letter to the Sunday Tribune today.

And to everyone else who offered private support.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Ceann trá - filming on the beach

Dad in the distance across the flats of wet sands. The greyhounds straining on leashes to follow him or worse any random impulse or canine fancy on the wind. My anxiety that it should all happen as he’d instructed. Waiting, muscles taut to restrain the hounds until the moment that he would shout. Then in a flash of adrenaline, slip the leads, properly, to let the dogs streak across the wet sand, a line of sleek energy between me and him – far away.

Rachel droves us to Ceann Trá today, Ventry beach, so that we could test some ideas for the film that will sit in the heart of our piece. I wore grandad’s coat – that I used in my first piece Caoineadh at LCDS – and raced up and down the beach in the wind.

On the way back to Baile Bhúirne, looking through the steamed up wind-screen, I remembered journeys back to boarding school uncomfortable, silent and unrealised expressions of love.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Getting over it - Casadh Arís

I am very grateful to the people who, in the wake of the article, have been in contact to express their support of my work. I’ve tried to be rational about the article and to understand the journalistic instinct that inspired it and react accordingly. Nonetheless, it does hurt and I did feel attacked.

It was great, therefore, to start on a new piece today – a solo called Casadh Arís – with the composer Rachel Holstead (yes, I do work with music!).

We’re in the Ionad Cultúrtha in Baile Bhúirne, in West Cork, where lots of central heating, three layers of socks and generous portions of food help us combat the cold. It’s good to be working, good to have an inspiring and open collaborator. And Baile Bhúirne is beautiful in the bright winter light.

Dancing at the Crossroads - The Sunday Tribune doesn't like it

I was expecting the article. I knew some time ago that a journalist had submitted a freedom of information request to Dublin City Council to find out the details of my residency. Of course all the information was already in the public domain (how much the residency offered, how much the Arts Council awarded me) and I’ve kept this blog for anyone find out what I’ve been up to – so I wasn’t fearing an exposé. But I was disappointed by the tone of the article that implies rather than asserts that something untoward was going on.

The journalist gave me an opportunity to contribute to the article so at least I was able to correct the misapprehension that I’d received €75,000 for the year, though that didn’t prevent an enthusiastic sub-editor from writing a headline that made it seem that way. I was disappointed also that the article didn’t mention the many tangible achievements of the residency.

So here is an extract from the email I sent him outlining those achievements:

The outcomes of the investment of the Arts Council and of Dublin City Council have been very positive.

I have brought dance artists from China to Dublin to create artistic links between our different cultures. The visiting artists returned to China with a high opinion of Irish work and of the infrastructure of support for the arts in Ireland. Such supports do not exist for independent artists in China and creativity is not as readily expressed as a result.

Bringing Chinese artists to Dublin resulted in a new dance piece, the first collaboration ever between an Irish and a Chinese choreographer (with a Chinese composer). That work, Dialogue, will be performed again in Europe and in China in 2009.

I have created a 20 minute dance film with James Kelly of Feenish Productions, The film, Three + 1, was projected on to the side of the DCC building in Barnardo Square for Culture Night. The purpose of the screening was to make the publicly funded work available to the public for free.

The film will also be shown in film festivals across the world making sure the profile of Irish art is raised internationally.

The funding also allowed for the research and development for a new work called Niche, that premiered to critical acclaim in Project Arts Centre last month.

The funding allowed for the creation of a blog ( that shared the research and development process with the public, locally, nationally and internationally.

The funding helped create a project that attracted media attention and feature articles (Irish Times, Irish Independent, Sunday Tribune, Herald, RTÉ) thereby raising the profile of dance in the public imagination.

I was able to pay six dancers through this process who in turn spent their money in Dublin. I was able to pay other artists (director, a film-maker) , other Irish companies such as Feenish Productions, Dance Ireland, and Project Arts Centre.

I was able to draw public attention to the impact of the changing urban infrastructure on the way people live their lives in the city.

I was able to create high quality dance work and share it freely with a public who might not usually experience the arts in their proximity.

In addition to all this tangible, measurable benefit, my development as a choreographer was furthered immeasurably by the support of both the Arts Council and of Dublin City Council. Their investment allowed me time to research and refine work of high quality. It allowed me to work with other artists and performers of high calibre. It also helped me communicate my ideas at a local, national and international level. The benefits of this investment in me is ongoing as the work I developed during the residency continues to be performed across Ireland and internationally.

As the Irish economy faces difficulty, I think there is something of immense value to be learned from the investment of the Arts Council and of Dublin City Council in the arts in general and in my work in particular. The number of outcomes, the range of employment, the raising of the profile of Irish creativity and innovation abroad are examples for how much can be achieved with limited resources.

These achievements were possible because of the way that partners in the arts work together creatively and generously. They were possible because artists are resourceful and innovative. It is right to invest in these skills. I am proud of these achievements and hope that I can take what I have learned to future projects. The arts are an important resource in Ireland, for Ireland and for all Irish people and I intend to keep finding ways to encourage investment in them.

Thank you again for the chance to clarify my position. I hope it helps your article.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Chris Elam - dance company and new media

I came across Misnomer Dance Theater when I was looking at arts organisations that are working comfortably with online technology.

Misnomer Dance Theater has made a name for itself as a company that exploits for dance the resources that indie bands and songwriters have successfully utilised to get their work distributed to a wider audience.

For those who were reminded at the New Media, New Audiences? conference yesterday that there won't be any extra money in Ireland for research and development in this area, it will provoke envy that Misnomer has just received a grant of $1 million to develop its model in to something other arts organisations can follow. The company's artistic director and choreographer Chris Elam may have had a head start in all of this in that he came to dance while he was studying public policy and computing at university. But that just reminds me that you need people who are connectors and multi-disciplinary to help knowledge to flow from one area of culture to another.

You can read more about their work in a recent New York Times article

I did notice from reading the article that while the company will enjoy having this $1 million in the bank, that money won't get any work made. The company will still have to fundraise for its artistic programme. And I wonder if it matters how good the communications technology and media are if there isn't something worthwhile to communicate.

New Media, New Audience?

I attended the Arts Council's New Media, New Audience? conference in Dublin Castle yesterday. Going there and particularly having been invited to be on a panel, I felt a bit of a charlatan since my engagement with online media is this blog, some facebook advertising and youtube - hardly cutting edge. However, in comparison to the majority of arts organisations in Ireland, it appears that this approach is relatively novel.

It was instructive that of the two keynote speakers it wasn't the utopian Charles Leadbeater whose argument received the most vocal support from the delegates. Instead it was Andrew Keen with his focus on what is lost (mostly traditional authority structures and traditional business models) that drew audience sympathy. Is that because there were more people representing arts organisations there than there were artists? Do organisations have more investment in maintaining control over the traditional means of distribution and traditional relationships with a traditional idea of audiences? In my experience, artists just get on with using whatever resources are available to them and web technology is another set of resources.

I moderated a panel with Peter Fitzpatrick, Trevor Curran, and Conor McGarrigle who were all positive about the opportunities that do exist. Trevor is already involved with producing the online teen drama Aisling's Diary, Conor has created a body of work online, using GPS technology in particular, and Peter, who works with Microsoft (but confessed to being a Mac user too!) talked about the software and applications that are being developed that the arts sector can start to use.

Even so, I realised that many people in the room weren't aware of the concept of something like Cloud computing and I wondered how that kind of awareness (which is part of newspaper general culture now rather than specialist knowledge) might be raised. Someone said to me that he was shocked by the level of resistance to 'new media' (not new NOW) and thought the sector would be severely hampered by such resistance.

So why do I blog? Because I want to share what I'm thinking about, what influences me, what I've learned; by sharing that, I want to help people have a way in to my work, to not just encounter it as a closed product but to see it as something in process, something porous.

However I wonder if my invitation to participate is clear enough. Do I really make it possible or worthwhile for people to engage in dialogue? Or am I more driven by the narcissism that Keen thinks is endemic in this everyone-has-a-voice culture?

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Film by Samuel Beckett

The figure runs close along a stretch of tall buildings. Scurries. Hides. Evades. Makes it to bare room. Hides. Evades.

Buster Keaton's distinctive if older physicality makes the opening of this unusual Becekett film an interesting dance in the city, a body making its way against a set buildings, under surveillance from the camera.

Another unexpected antecedent.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Performing in Artium, Vitoria

I arrived today at Artium, an unexpectedly interesting art museum in the Basque city of Vitoria. It’s the first venue of a tour called ‘A Man’s Touch’, organised by Mikel Aristgui who is Basque and who just danced in Niche. It was thanks to him that I brought Match to Bilbao this summer and now I’m back with Match and the solo from Cosán Dearg that I performed in China last year. The evening is called ‘A Man’s Touch’ because it’s choreography by men (me and Mikel) performed by men (Matthew, Mikel and me). Mikel and I both have duets and a solo to present and we finish the evening with a improv coda that brings all three of us on stage.

I was impressed by Artium from the minute we arrived. It’s new, beautifully designed and has an interesting collection. More importantly for us, they are welcoming of dance and though they don’t have a theatre or studio space, they have a team that transforms one of their spaces into a spacious and flexible performance venue. The lighting is limited but given that I’ve performed Match and Cosán Dearg in all kinds of technically unsupported spaces that’s not a problem.

It was a pleasure to return to Match and feel secure in the reliable relationship with Matthew. Adapting to new spacing is easy in theory but it’s interesting that it takes longer for the body – my body, at least – to be assured in that adaptation. Matthew and I performed well but I was aware that we would come out of some passages of movement and orient ourselves by different internal maps that set us fractionally at odds with each other when we would come together for the next physical interaction. I don’t imagine that many will have noticed this from the outside but we are aware of the adjustments necessary in those moments of misdirection.

It’s been longer since I did the solo but that was a pleasure too. I’ve done it in so many different places (in Project’s Space Upstairs, in a wood in Cúil Aodha, on the Bird’s nest building site and on a roof terrace in Hong Kong) and there is something of each of those iterations that lingers when I perform it again. To those memories I now add a sense of long rows of Basque faces in the sensitively lit Artium as I find out how my body has changed (aged) in a year, what it accomplishes with ease, what now feels alien, how I respond emotionally to these perceptions. It’s like meeting an old friend

Saturday, 1 November 2008


I’ve been thinking about perspective. We’ve just finished performing Niche and I’ve been comforted and confronted by other people’s perspective on the work. I think I’ve made a piece that invites a particular way of viewing, an attentiveness to what’s going on in the space (a shared space of performers and audience) rather than an attempt to decode symbols that stand in for something else. Of course as I write this it sounds like I’m offering some unmediated, raw experiences and as a good student I know that’s impossible. We can’t help but view things, experience things, feel things, through the filters of prior experiences, social codes, and prevalent ideas about ourselves and our environment that organise the sensory data we receive from the world (even this idea of us separate from the world is an organising idea that shapes our thinking).

So what am I asking when I invite an audience to be attentive, to notice what’s going on (the wobbles, the detail of touch, the instability of weight, the hum of the generator?) How does an audience know what matters and what doesn’t?

I don’t know what matters – not in the big scheme of things. But I know what matters to me and I make work that reflects that. But knowing that my perspective is not complete I build in structures that remind myself and the audience that what I’m presenting is partial, limited and personal. I invite them to pay attention to what escapes me and my control, to see more than I can and to be delighted by the new things that are revealed in the process. And maybe I remind them that their perspective is partial too.

It’s for that reason that the woman in Niche has a trajectory independent of the men. Her rhythm is not determined by me and is a surprise each evening. I have made no attempt to resolve her sharing of the space with the men, though I know how I, as audience, have created links between the men and woman. Like independent inhabitants of the city, their paths can be viewed simultanaeously from a particular perspective but the temporal connection doesn’t imply a causal relation.

I’ve also reflected on perspective because this week I took Mikel’s part in the piece for performances in Liverpool and Bray. As a result I’ve seen the work from the perspective of a participant though not quite yet forsaking the external perspective I carry in my head from previous performances.

This is what Niche looks like from my perspective on the stage:

Matthew's solo

Stéphane waiting for Plank

Matthew's solo

Stéphane after Hoodie duet

Monday, 27 October 2008

Niche: Audience response

I asked some people who had come to see Niche to respond to three questions: What did you see? What did you feel? What did you think?

Many thanks to Eithne Doyle for these answers:

Niche = A place of retreat or retirement

What did you see?

I did not see a place of retreat or retirement. Rather, I felt that in that dark space there was a sense of cosmic loneliness.

What did you feel?

I felt the young men were living “kidult” lives, relying on games to communicate with one another. They seemed confused, wary of human contact while, simultaneously, longing for it. They appeared not to know their place in the scheme of things and consequently were unable to find their niche. Maybe their niche was pretence. The woman, on the other hand, though she was a remote and solitary figure, was methodically carving out her space, attending to the practical things – as women do – preparing food and sorting clothing but passively, almost mechanically. Her world and that of the
young men never met.
Technically, the piece was superb. I liked the fact that there was no background music. Instead, the dancers provided their own living sounds thus adding hugely to the physicality of the work.

What do you think now?

Is “Niche” a comment on the changing landscape of Dublin’s Docklands? Are these young men reflecting the sense of loss and dislocation caused by the destruction of the old neighbourhoods? Or are they just confused by the changing role of men in our society and by their inability to find their place in that society.

“Change is not made without inconvenience even from worse to better”

Eithne Doyle

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Finding his own niche dancing on the streets

Colin Murphy's article about Niche in today's Irish independent

Finding his own niche dancing on the streets
Saturday October 25 2008
One afternoon during the summer of last year, Fearghus Ó Conchúir put on his black overcoat, put the hood up, and walked out into the rain. He was looking for something.

He wandered through Dublin's northside till he found himself on a corner in the docklands, on Guild Street, where the pavement was wider. He took out his mobile phone, turned on the video function, and propped it up so it was watching him. And then he started dancing.

He danced for 10 minutes, took a break, and danced again. Some people walked by, giving him a wide berth. A woman sitting outside her house called him over.

"You want to be careful of that," she said, pointing at the phone. "It'll get robbed." And she asked him what he was doing. A passing car stalled, and the driver asked him what he was up to.

He was up to a few things. He was dancing. He was researching. He was rehearsing. He was recording. He had been given money by Dublin City Council and the Arts Council to develop choreography on the theme of 'bodies and buildings'. The body of Dublin was changing, he believed -- not just the physical city, of buildings and infrastructure, but also the typical, individual, human body.

Ó Conchúir wanted to explore this in dance, and so he would spend his morning developing dances in the studio, working with his ideas about different bodies, and then, in the afternoons, he would try these dances in different places in the docklands, to see how they felt, and how the environment changed them.

That work has ultimately become the show Niche, which plays tonight in Dublin's Project Arts Centre, and next Saturday in the Mermaid in Bray.

But at that early stage, Ó Conchúir wasn't thinking of getting it into a theatre.

"The thing about performing in a theatre is that it's people who are comfortable coming to a theatre who will come to see it," he says. "To do it on the streets is a way to let people stop and watch as long as they want to."

Many of those who passed him dancing simply ignored him. "It's interesting what level of strangeness people will accept," he observes, wryly.

Others would watch from afar: office workers smoking outside their building; or builders on construction sites. "It pleases me that there can be a place for art alongside the everyday. I like that it was okay for me to do my thing alongside people smoking, or building, or pushing the pram, or whatever."

Having worked on his own, he decided to bring in some other dancers, and produce a show. But as he was due to put the finishing touches to an Arts Council application, he fell ill, and missed the deadline.

He was devastated. He knew the time was right for this show, and didn't want to wait until the next funding round. So he decided to try fundraising himself.

He sent out an email: "You can help me make a new dance piece. I am looking for 500 people to donate €100 each," it said. Once he had 10 positive replies, he knew the piece would happen -- though he ultimately received just 50 donations. (The rest is being made up by in-kind donations of theatre services, and his own money.)

Paradoxically, he found it empowering to say to people, "I need help, can you help me?"

It provided a way of bringing other people into the project, and forced him to think more about communicating and sharing what he was doing. (All of this early work, including the Guild St video, is documented on his blog, He calls his funders 'the Optimists'.

Despite the bleak economic prospects, he says he too is optimistic for the arts: "We made this piece on a shoestring. We found a way to use the limited resources at hand to make something that I hope is beautiful and engaging. There is something that is optimistic for me about being able to do that."

Niche features four dancers, a motley collection of artefacts cluttered on a bare stage, and no music.

"Music often tells an audience what to feel and think and I'd prefer to let you make your own mind up," he writes in a programme note. "And besides, there's lots to listen to: the sound of plastic bags, of jumps, of effort, of traffic in the distance... "

He describes how the docklands environment inspired the dances: sites there can be strewn with rubbish; looking at abandoned objects, he would wonder where they had come from.

"What's the story behind that child's buggy in the middle of that wasteground?" he might think.

Niche, he says, is "a dance about finding your place". It may sound eccentric, but that fits. Ó Conchúir's method is a celebration of the eccentricity that flourishes in the city, of the ways people forge an identity amidst the turbulent cross currents of economic and social change. Ultimately, everybody needs to find their niche.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Michael Seaver's review of Niche

In this section »
Perfect parables of futility
The Irish Times writers review the latest in the arts world


Project, Dublin

Choreographer Fearghus Ó Conchúir didn't set out to create a dance about the current financial difficulties, but it is just one pretty apparent reading of his latest work, Niche . The hour-long dance sets out to examine the common search for a personal niche and a safe refuge from the perils of ordinary life, but it sheds more light on what happens when one abandons that cubbyhole and when individuality is replaced by mutuality.

As the audience finds its own personal space on Project's benched seating, three male dancers - Mikel Aristegui, Stéphane Hisler and Matthew Morris - walk on-stage with a chair and mark out their space, emptying bags of possessions and creating individual enclaves so that a coat slung on a chair-back becomes a tent-like barrier. These spaces become refuges where the performers retire from the dancing to read a book, glug on a water bottle or lie face-down with a hood pulled over their head.

But this isn't where they are happiest; instead, they prefer to feel integrated and attached to the other dancers. At these moments, the movement is at its most joyous, like an arms-around-shoulders chorus line of kicks and lurches that roars camaraderie and bonhomie.

Throughout the proceedings, a solitary female, Bernadette Iglich, drags black refuse sacks of clothes and cardboard boxes along the back wall of the stage, ignoring and ignored by the other performers.

The resonance with today's uncertain financial times isn't just through the despondent street-life surroundings, but rather through a deeper sense that social moorings have disappeared and the moral framework that binds people must be recreated. Leaving behind the selfish exuberance of the Celtic Tiger for more stringent realities, the relationship between individual goals and the means to achieve them has become disjointed.

Similarly, in Niche , the dancers are drawn out from the relative comfort of their heaps of possessions to rediscover the informal rules that bind them, and finish up by creating a slow trio that shows a reassuring co-dependency.

But Ó Conchúir's theme is universal and his thoughtful choreography is robust enough to take any number of readings, whatever the context. Until Sat


Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Folk inspiration

Having previously posted that video that didn't directly inspire Niche, I thought I should share some of the vintage footage (gleaned from youtube) that we really did use as inspiration. Attitude as much as steps were gleaned from these videos. Having learned lots of Eastern European folk dance when I was at the United World College of the Pacific in Canada, this kind of dance has a personal resonance for me. Learning it when I was 18 and 19, it was the beginning of my discovery of the how important dance could be in my life. For Niche, however, I was interested in how these folk dances permit men to dance with each other, regardless of their sexuality.

This one is a couple's dance - an older man and woman - but it's still a favourite, particularly the weighty bounce of the woman while her partner does his flashy steps. This section inspired a little duet for Matthew and Stéphane.

More men dancing in the city

Mikel sent me this link and it reminds me what men dancing in the city could look like, as well as outing influences that I hadn't dared acknowledge. It's also a colourful contrast to the restrained tones of Niche!

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Extra niches from Dan Dubowitz

Reuben's niche

From Dan: "This was the mausoleum built by Mussolini's son-in-law, number 2 in the regime, for himself.
Mussolini killed him in the end and the unfinished mausoleum lies incomplete on the top of the hill overlooking Livorno. This is one we need to visit together some day."

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Final day in the Dancehouse studio

An excerpt from one of our final run-throughs is the studio. This is a bit of what I call Babushka (Matthew and Stéphane) and Stick duet (Matthew and Stéphane with Mikel joining in)

Friday, 17 October 2008

Matthew and Mikel go Niche crazy

Matthew and Mikel went walking near Dalkey last weekend and filled with notions of place-finding inserted Matthew into a sea-side grotto. I see the perverted Venus rising but I also remember that many religions place their special statues in secret places. Ave Maria. When I imagine niches in the city, it is instructive that I usually think of them as places for one person at a time - a special place for a special person. Maybe there can be group snugs too.

If you're easily disturbed don't turn your computer on its side to view this image.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Mitch's photos from Niche rehearsal

Mitch (Jonathan Mitchell) took these pictures for me in rehearsals. Press needed clearer images than the beautifully grimy ones he's already taken for me outdoors and which I've used in the posters. I'm glad of the opportunity to get him in the studio with us, since as a former dancer, he can read the movement and capture its idiosyncrasies.

This is a picture of a moment I called Scheherazade. In the middle of the section we call Mudra, when the men are in a tangled connection of hand holds, Matthew finds his arms crossing his face and does flirty eyes as if above a veil. Scheherazade colours some of Matthew's other material too but this one is seen only by the other dancers - a private recognition.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Three+1 Barnardo Square: Niamh's photos

Still more, high quality pictures of the Barnardo Square screening from Niamh O' Donnell's camera. It's great to see the film taking it's place amid the light's and bustle of a Dublin Friday evening.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008


I've asked people to send me pictures of their favourite niches in the city

Here's Rachel's:

And Matthew's Angel

And some people in London, making a seat where there wasn't one

This is from Dominic, an image by photographer SARAH JONES called The Park (II), 2002. (Courtesy Maureen Paley, London)

In the Studio

We (Bernadette, Stéphane, Mikel and Matthew) are in the studio together for the last rehearsal period in the run-up to the opening of Niche. Mikel is joining us at this stage, not having been part of the process to date, and he's asked us all what the piece is about. I was interested that people didn't reply by saying what they thought the piece meant. Instead they talked about what they had been through in the development of the piece and how the experience of Dublin city was an intrinsic part of what they'd been through. Our job now is to maintain that openness to the life of the city as we take the work into the theatre.

While we were talking in the studio, two of the trees from the park ajoining Dancehouse were felled by the council. We couldn't help but have those changes influence us in the studio.

So now we have some sawdust piles to play with. Bernadette told the council worker that we were making a dance and he offered her more sawdust if we needed it.

Friday, 3 October 2008

Three+1 Barnardo Square More photos

These are James Kelly's photos of the Culture Night screening of Three+1. Seeing the work happen as the city's night life goes on is an important for me. The two can exist side by side. It's also important as I take this work into Project in the shape of NICHE that I can maintain the sense of the city's life going on outside as we make a particular place for the dance within the walls of the theatre.

Architect Will Alsop on the Public Realm

Today the situation is more open and the opportunity exists for the artist to redefine the space itself rather than simply produce work to be sited by others. The role of the artist in determining our external experience is essential. Without
the artist, the role falls to the landscape architects and/or the urban designers. Current art practice goes way beyond the idea
of the object placed in space. Appropriately, the content of our “public realm” must reflect the people who use it by going way
beyond a town councillor’s view on what ART is.

The idea of public space as something other than a surface to connect two front doors is radical. The work of PUBLIC ART
through its rich and diverse activities sets out to question the nature of this space --- that every town & city has in abundance ---- and programme it as opposed to designing it. The distinction between these two activities is vital. One is about
beautification, which often degenerates into style or heritage. The other is about reclaiming the space for genuine public use.

If the street could be the city art gallery, then why not a school? No shops but markets? No theatre but a continuous
performance? The public realm has the ability to liberate many of our treasured institutions in such a way that they could be
redefined. This is the work of the artist and architect, alongside the rest of the community.

This extract from Will Alsop's contribution to 'People Making Places: Imagination in the Public Realm' raises a distinction between programming the public space rather than designing it. This distinction is useful for a performance based artist like me but it also suggests that the engagement with the public realm needs to be dynamic and evolving rather than monumental and immutable. Of course that dynamism may not be only expressed in human bodies. I'm thinking of Sarah Browne's wooden rainbow near Lurganboy as part of the New Sites, New Fields project for Leitrim sculpture Centre. The structure was erected in a field, an expression of the collective energy that created and assembled it. Having survived the Irish weather for a few weeks, it has collapsed. It's rise and fall has an expressive dynamic that participates in the public realm rather than attempt to determine that space.

See Sarah's account of the building and collapse of the rainbow at:

More of Will Alsop's piece at

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Don Sheehan's exhibition Urbis Modo

Broadstone Studios sent me an invitation to see Don Sheehan's photographic exhibition Urbis Modo. It's a collection of photos taken at night in Dublin between 1998 and 2008. Many of the images of people in various states of intoxication but they struck a chord with me because they also depict people nestling into the inhospitable surfaces of the urban space. In stupor and dereliction, people find a niche and make the city adapt to their overwhelming need to switch off and pass out.

There's a link to the online gallery below.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Three+1 Barnardo Square

For Culture Night, we screened Three+1 on the side of the Dublin City Council Building on Barnardo Square, off Dame Street, near the City Hall (the tortuous description of the location is testimony to the fact that Barnardo Square is a new place that is still struggling to be recognised, though I know that DCC are keen to use events such as the screening to help make the place.)

I wasn't there for the screening but Niamh and James looked after the film and other friends and family took pictures to give me an idea if what happened. If you saw it, do fill me in too...

Friday, 12 September 2008

Great Art for Everyone

I was invited to speak today at conference held by the Yorkshire Regional Office of Arts Council of England. So I left Cork last night, having seen the dancers do their dress rehearsal and wishing them well with the opening tonight. Always moving on.

The Arts Council conference was organised to discuss the new ACE priorities, encapsulated in the strapline Great Art for Everyone. I was asked to talk about Great Art, one of a panel of four expected to provoke discussion. It was a daunting gig, particularly given that my delayed flight meant I got to Leeds at 2:30am - what a waste of a lovely hotel room. But I guess it was easier for me to speak freely than an artist who might be a client of the organisations present.

You can read what I'd prepared to say below. It isn't exactly what I said but I like to prepare so that I am free to improvise. And the chair gave Niche a plug too!

I’m sure you’ve all read Alan Davey’s introduction to the Arts Council England 2008 review. It concludes with the rousing exhortation that nothing less than excellence will do. It’s a daunting benchmark to consider as I stand in front of you today, an artist invited to offer my perspective on what great art might. The chief executive’s report is entitled artistic ambition and while I can own up to being ambitious, it is a particular kind of ambition which I’ll explain later, but I’m not sure it’s the world-class ambition for which Alan Davey says the Arts Council must create the conditions. World-class ambition sounds to me quite a spectacular, splashy thing with not a little of the Olympic about it. I come from a triple bronze winning country and not multiple gold winning GB so you’ll understand if I make a claim for possibility of greatness in art that is quieter and less grand in scale.

But first of all a confession: when I go into a studio to make a new piece of choreography, I do not think about making excellent work or creating great art.

Part of the reason I don’t focus my energies on earning that recognition is that it is a function of the judgement of others and external to the work. We know that the criteria of that judgement changes from one historical period to the next, from one culture to another, from one ideology to another. Solzhenitsen’s achievements were not something Stalin’s Russia could acknowledge. Van Gogh was ignored in his time. Had Maya Angelou written her books a century earlier, would they have been published let alone acclaimed. Given that the judgement of greatness is so changeable, it doesn’t seem that it should be the focus of an artist’s work.

So what do I think about when I step into that studio? What I try to do is make the piece that’s necessary at that moment in time. When I say necessary, what I mean is that I am looking for the truth of the particular circumstances of that creation. I was taught that the artist’s work is less to create than to discover the work that is already there to be intuited, Like the water Diviner in Seamus Heaney’s poem who circles the terrain until ‘spring water suddenly broadcasting it secret stations’, his hazel rod twitches into recognition, I am trying to be attentive to what needs to be expressed.

Partly it’s what I want to express:
I bring my own concerns, my own personal history, my place in society, my gender, my sexuality, all of those things and when I work with others I take in to account what they bring in to the studio also. But I but also be aware of the studio itself. I know for instance that the wonderful new Dancehouse in Dublin, where I often rehearse, was built as part of a regeneration plan for a socio-economically deprived area of the city. It was built in a Public Private partnership agreement, which tells us something of the prevailing politics and it was possible because of then booming Irish economy. I’m also aware of Dublin when I work in a studio there, aware of the changed complexion and body of the city thanks to the foreign migrants who have relocated to find work there. I am aware of Dublin in relation to the rest of the world, to China for example where I have worked in recent years, knowing that Irish construction companies are involved in building projects there and that the Irish government like many others is keen to business with the growing superpower. I hold all these things when I start to make a movement, a twist, a fall. And I wait to see what shape of all these interconnected ideas will reveal itself, what truth will emerge from their interplay.

I was taught by Kim Brandstrup, a choreographer from whom I learned a great deal, that the choreographer’s job was to see what was going on. Not to see what I want to see or what I’d like to be there but to honestly observe what’s going on in front of me. As a result, I often find amused in ballet performances when the floaty costumes of the ballerinas tell me that I should think them weightless and ethereal but the hard thump of forty pointe shoes running around the stage makes it impossible for me to maintain the artifice. Of course I’m not a classical choreographer but how much more interesting for me to explore the hardness of that sound in relation to the potential for lightness it also allows. But that says more about me.

From Kim, I learned this attentiveness as a aesthetic strategy but I own it more now as an ethical strategy since the attention to what’s really going on is often allows a recognition of moments of friction, of resistance or impediments to the flow of movement. Noticing these places allows me to recognise what is ordinarily edited out, passed over. These are the truths I need to see included. Given the celebratory tone of much of the language around the new Great Art for Everyone strapline, I want to make sure that we realise that art needs to attend to the uncomfortable as well and that people can gather in that discomfort as much as in the balm of celebration.

So maybe

Greatness or excellence is like love – It’s very difficult to describe but you recognise it when you feel it.

Love can’t be commanded and I don’t think excellence can be either.
In fact, as in love, those that look too hard for it are often least successful in it.

So what do you do? Love comes to those who are available to it. It is a reward for a life well lived and excellence is a reward for an artistic process conducted with integrity.

To conclude then I have some questions that test my analogy:

It seems to me that a constant search for novelty doesn’t necessarily help one find love. Loyalty to the familiar can be rewarded by deeper connections. Should those who seek to support the processes that might produce great art indulge in serial one night stands or commit to already established relationships. Perhaps an open relationship is required with central loyalties and bits on the side? Perhaps just as routine can kill love, novelty can rekindle it? When do you stick to the old process and when so you let it go?

And finally if love can exist between two people, or a family, or a community, who will judge which love is of better quality? Is quantity the source of reckoning? And if work is judged by small numbers to be great, does that mean it is of less value than work judged excellent by many? Remember Van Gogh.

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Match and the Olympics

EdfesttTV made this short promo for our performances of Match at Dancebase.

While Matthew and I made Match fit in to another space in Edinburgh, the Olympics opened in Beijing. I wondered about what manicured lawns or gracious walkways now covered the rubble where I'd danced last year in front of the Bird's Nest Stadium

I was interested to read that Rem Koolhaas has defended the new stadium as a building with many niches for people to meet in, though of course, what the world saw in the opening and closing ceremonies was the beguiling but rather terrifying beauty of mass choreography in the stadium's main space. It remains to be seen what other choreographies those niches allow.

My friend Tadeo who works in Beijing has written a couple of insightful post on the experience of the building. You might be interested:

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Catching up with myself

I haven't posted for a while. The past month has been busy with preparations for Edinburgh and with the creation of Dialogue, the new collaboration with Xiao Ke and Yin Yi that premiered in Dancehouse at the end of July. It was fascinating to spend time with the Chinese artists and to be confronted with myself, my habits and my deeply held assumptions when confronted by their very different approach.

The temptation is to talk about these differences in a China vs Western framework but to be honest it's difficult to discern just how typical any of us of the cultures we'd be required to represent in this kind of dichotomy. As we see in the Beiijng Olympics, China has become skilled at delivering a Western audience what it thinks is expected of it (aesthetically pleasing little girl singers for example) so the oppositions are difficult to sustain.

For that reason, I'd presented the work as an encounter between individuals (already a revealing and culturally indicative gesture, I'll admit), between a tall body and a shorter one, between a man and a woman, between an Irish performer and a Chinese one (Ireland vs China, Ireland + China?). If we were successful, and I think we were, it was in having found a way to allow all of those differences and potential oppositions to co-exist in the space articulated by the dance. We didn't try to homogenise our movement styles; any unison dancing served only to highlight our differences. In a context where the integration of foreign nationals into Irish society was mentioned, I felt this demonstration of fruitfully co-existing difference had a countervaling weight.

photographs by Jonathan Mitchell

Dialogue was commissioned by the Intercultural Relations Unit of Dublin City Council with support from An Chomhairle Ealaion

Monday, 28 July 2008

Michael Seaver in the Irish Times

Thanks to Michael Seaver who wrote an article in today's Irish Times about my work on bodies and buildings.

Choreographer Fearghus Ó Conchúir is using the changing face of Dublin as the backdrop to his innovative dance performances, writes Michael Seaver

LOADED WITH political resonance, Tiananmen Square was a popular and high-profile choice for western participants at last year's Dadao Live Art festival in Beijing. Irish choreographer Fearghus Ó Conchúir instead chose to perform at the building site of the Olympic Stadium, for him an equally, if not more resonant political setting for his dance.

"Some of the other artists were really surprised that I had got permission to perform there," says Ó Conchúir. He didn't. "I did it on the sly. For me, it felt more appropriate. It was about asserting the right of an individual to express himself, perhaps on behalf others, in the shadow of this national governmental symbol."

The western world seems infatuated by China's new cityscapes. In this month's Vanity Fair magazine, Kurt Anderson pays a gushing tribute to Beijing's new architecture. It's a typical full-colour glossy reflection of the new architecture (rather predictably titled From Mao to Wow!), with impressive photographs and a convenient narrative. Anderson finds parallels with New York City's heyday in the early 20th century when the Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, Grand Central Station and Rockefeller Center marked the city's cultural significance, which still exists today.

But there is an inconvenient narrative behind Beijing's new architecture that Ó Conchúir wanted to articulate. "A lot of people had to leave their homes and make way for the new construction. In this context, I felt it was important to make a statement for the individual." The individual is constantly forgotten in Beijing preparations and even human horse-power is cheap. In the past month, 10,000 soldiers and civilians have cleared algae from the coastal city of Qingdao, which will host the yacht races at the Olympics.

Ó Conchúir agrees with Anderson's assessment that Beijing's cultural significance is being defined at present through its architecture. It is also something he sees back in Dublin, where areas of the city are making way for new buildings and a new cityscape is being created that will define Dublin for years to come. As dance-artist-in-residence with Dublin City Council, he has interacted with this changing architecture in rather the same way as he did in Beijing: rather than put dancers in sites of historical interest, he has placed them in building sites and wastelands that precede the bulldozers and cranes.

"The whole rush to create new buildings is, of course, tied to our financial wealth," he says. "But the change of the physical landscape is also a change of our mental landscape, our history and how we imagine we are at this moment." Responding to these changes as a dance artist means going into these spaces and finding new ways of moving there, in other words, relating the human scale back to the new building.

"I'm not a luddite," he is clear to point out. "I'm not against the development. I just want to connect with what was there before, as a way of understanding and humanising the new when it comes along." New architecture is almost always constructed on top of previous settlements or buildings. "Even the process of building foundations is like opening a grave," he says. "We have to do something with the memories of the old buildings and find ways to make these new buildings more adapted to exuberant human interaction, even though many are more security conscious and corporatised."

This doesn't mean redesigning the buildings, but finding ways to adapt the spaces. There is a wall near where he has been filming off Sheriff Street, which always has people sitting on it, talking. It was built as a barrier, but it is now used as a space for socialising. It is only by the interaction of the human body with the built environment that social spaces are created in unexpected spaces. He sees a similar thing happening because of the smoking ban. Banished outdoors, smokers in the Dockland's new offices have had to seek out or create social spaces that weren't in the architect's plans.

"His work is very significant and relevant to the way the city is developing," says Jack Gilligan, arts officer for Dublin City Council. "It is great to have someone responding so fluidly to his surroundings. Even since he began working in this area of the north inner city, things have changed."

Ó CONCHÚIR'S CV IS full of contradictions. A native Irish speaker, he completed degrees in English and European Literature at Magdalen College in Oxford. He then studied dance at London Contemporary Dance School and, now as a choreographer, the self-proclaimed country boy from An Rinn in Waterford is finding artistic resonance in building sites off inner city Dublin's Sheriff Street.

His first work to connect the performer with his environment was Match, a dance film for the 2006 International Dance Festival Ireland. This duet focussed on the contests in daily life and relationships and featured two tussling male dancers performing in an empty Croke Park.

The towering terraces amplified their battle with resonances that went further than GAA contests, but appeared almost gladiatorial. After that he teamed up with architect Dan Dubowitz and was commissioned by Fingal County Council for a public art project set in the area's Martello Towers. The public aspect of this is important.

"I am keen to make the work accessible to people," he says. "When I say accessible, it's not about changing the content of the work. The work is as strange and idiosyncratic and personal as always. But rather than hide it in a studio, or a theatre where it is marginally a self-selected audience, I want to show it where people can see it. They are not obliged to stay and watch it. But they will see it."

While in China he teamed up with choreographer Xiao Ke and composer Yin Yi and together they have created Dialogue, which will be performed at Dancehouse on July 30th. As the title suggests, the work is about talking together, but it is not a work about Ireland and China.

"Neither of us wanted that, however, when we come together we embody certain aspects of the places we come from. So we're going to see how that fits together, but without making a programmatic declaration about inter- cultural relations."

Another dance, Niche, is directly inspired by the derelict areas awaiting the bulldozers in the Docklands. Ó Conchúir teamed up with James Kelly of Feenish Films and made a dance film in the original location, a setting that is ideal. "My work isn't polished and glamorous. It's quite rough and muscular, and it's that grittiness that gets amplified when its put into an environment that isn't so pristine." Later in the year, Niche will transfer to the Project Arts Centre, thanks to a fundraising campaign that, it is hoped, will raise 500 individual donations of €100.

"Niche is about finding a place for ourselves, a niche, in an environment that's changing all the time. It's about living in cities with cranes on the skyline, about communities that aren't like we remember. It's about excitement and loss and it's something I think we can all connect to."

Dialogue will be performed on Wed and Thurs at 8pm at Dancehouse, Corner, Foley St, Dublin, 01- 8558800.

© 2008 The Irish Times

This article appears in the print edition of the Irish Times

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Filming Three+1 for now

Taking advantage of the sunshine we started filming today on wasteground just off Sherrif St. The builders ignored us after yesterday's cheers of 'encouragement' but today we still felt watched by the circling helicopters and the feral cats. Maybe the people on the cranes saw us too before they lined up their machines at knock off time.

I loved being there and seeing the performers working. The choreography makes sense to me when confronted by the textures of this kind of environment. But broken bottles, babies' nappies and uneven concrete aren't so easy for the dancers to negotiate.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Ai Weiwei on the politics of Beijing building

Ai Weiwei, celebrity Chinese artist and design collaborator for the Bird's Nest Olympic Stadium, on the construction boom in Beijing:

While some gasp at Beijing's extraordinary new skyline, with its statement buildings and rows of cranes, Ai remains singularly unimpressed. 'It's like another revolution,' he says. 'The speed of it. But if you look at the scale of it, you can tell that no time has been devoted to thinking. It has not been done gracefully. It's rough and short-sighted and temporary. Cities always reflect human history. We can't really judge it now but I'm sure there's going to be a lot of saying sorry later. [What we need to know is] who's building it? How do the developers get the land? It's so political. In 1949 most properties lost their owners. They were either kicked out or killed. The nation owned the property. Since then the state has just sold it to people who can afford it. So property should be [according to the government] for the whole nation, yet the government takes the profit. No political, philosophical or moral aesthetic is involved. It's just: let's be rich first. Except that people are finally starting to question: who is getting rich?' (The Observer, July 6)

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Skerries installation

Working in these Martello Towers is quite an experience. There's the adrenaline rush of scaling the walls, the mental and physical agility required to respond to the tricky terrain on top of the towers but there's also the human encounters with owners, caretakers, tourists, teenagers and passers-by who turn out to have a long investment in the towers. People have been very generous to us in allowing us access to their towers and in sharing their connections to these unusual buildings.

Through anecdotes we hear of dancehalls near the Skerries tower, of dances prepared for on the top of Rush tower, of Thursday night hauntings when a young man in a white sheet would climb the tower to scare the holiday makers camped below.

How can choreography deal with all this information? It's hard to articulate but all of these anecdotes do live in the performance I've tried to create for and through the towers. They are hauntings, they are playful, they are business-like, absorbed, ordinary and a little strange. They touch bird shit and plasma tvs.

The biggest structural device will be clear from the installation where twelve identical screens sit side by side and the same energy of rotation creates a particular connecting rhythm that belies the differences of the towers' current state and the particular 'performers' that our films notice.

I'll miss not having an excuse to dance on a tower any more. Thanks to all those people who made it possible.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Removing barriers is good for us

An article in today's Irish Times caught my attention because it acknowledges that not all the architecture of control in the urban space is helpful or as protective as it seems to be.
Transport chief's Dublin plan: confuse drivers to cut crashes
FRANK McDONALD, Environment Editor

TAKE A street in Dublin. Eliminate the footpaths. Get rid of all the "clutter" - traffic lights, direction signs, pedestrian crossings and guard rails, then see what happens.

That's the experiment John Henry, director of the Dublin Transportation Office, wants to try out in the centre of the city.

"Without any signs, traffic will automatically slow down and there will be fewer accidents because drivers will take more care," he said confidently.

"The environment is what controls speed, not signs or rules. It's psychological. Signs like 'slow', 'stop' and 'yield' are often not seen by drivers. If you take the signs and kerb lines away, and say 'go figure it out yourselves', you're creating uncertainty - and that's safer."

Evidence from abroad, rather surprisingly, supports Mr Henry's novel proposal. Five years ago, the Dutch town of Drachten removed signs and traffic lights as part of a "naked streets" experiment - and accident figures plummeted as drivers became more cautious.

Drivers undirected by signs, kerbs or road markings are faced with confusion and ambiguity. Since they do not want to cause accidents at junctions, or damage their cars, they reduce their speed and establish eye contact with other users."

The article refers to the planning of roads but the construction of fortresses whether luxury apartment blocks or corporate headquarters that seem to protect those who make it inside might be creating the conditions beyond their walls and cctv-monitored precincts that undermine that expensive safety.

Maybe the answer is to encourage confusion and ambiguity and to re-establish eye contact with one another.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Ireland's eye

The Martello towers used to have a gun emplacement on the roof that rotated three hundred and sixty degrees. We've got a central camera rotating through three hundred and sixty degrees capturing some of the activity that is placed in the tower. I remember when we first visited, walking around the stony mass of Skerries tower, aware of the heat of the sun on one side and the damp cold of the sunless side and I thought that the tower was like a planet with its light and shade, heat and cold. That planetary motion made me think of life cycles and how brief our human flowering in the light.

In our work, the camera impassively rotates and, for short moments, a figure appears before its lens. The camera moves on regardless of our interest in the figure. The tower is a constant.

This footage is from an early test shot and a bit like a score for a single instrument in a symphony since ultimately there will be twelve such films side by side.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

'Tattered Outlaws of History'

I’ve mentioned the Public Art project for Fingal County Council that Dan Dubowitz and I are collaborating on. We’ve been developing the project over year and a half and are on our final phase of shooting this week.

We’re filming a solo performance on top of each of the twelve Martello Towers in Fingal. Of course, ‘performance’ is quite the right word, not only because some of the participants would not think of themselves as performers. They are inhabitants of the towers – people who spend time in those squat and solid buildings, some with recent temporary histories in the towers, others with long associations to them,. Some of the inhabitants have the expanded physicality of dancers, some don’t. Maybe they’re a kind of animus of or in the towers. There’s definitely an encounter between the bodies of the inhabitants and the body of the tower they inhabit.

Some of the towers are derelict,. Others have been renovated to uses other than their original defensive purpose. They are a family of towers, built together as a defensive unit. Having never fulfilled their defensive purpose, each of the towers has accrued its own history. Our project is to tentatively, imaginatively re-establish the family connection.

Yesterday we spent time in the Skerries tower that is being partially cleared out with the council’s help to house our installation of films. Today we went back to the tower near Lough Shinny. When we started this project, the council, in the interest of our health and safety, had us don white overalls and facemasks to enter the Skerries tower. The dust from pigeon droppings is toxic, apparently. The council also said that access to some of the towers like Lough Shinny might be difficult to arrange. However some local boys told us there was a rope fixed to the entrance of the tower that we could use to scale the wall and that’s how we’ve entered the Lough Shinny tower each time we’ve worked there. It’s a different kind of performance that comes from a body that’s climbed it’s way to its performance space.

We’re not the only ones who get in the tower. Broken bottles, condoms and cigarette butts suggest how some people have found their own, unofficial use for this particular tower. It continues to be a safe haven.

But I couldn’t work out what or who brought the thousands of blue rubber bands that cover the inside and roof of the tower today. They make for a strange and beautiful patina on the film. And they allowed new moments of my dance to resonate. The towers have lots of these little surprises

Friday, 30 May 2008

Live and animal

An article in today's Guardian about improvised theatre caught my attention, linking the liveness of exciting theatre/performance and the animal.

"In Improbable," he {Lee Simpson, co-artistic director} says, "we recently had the thought that really good theatre is like a shy deer you coax onto the stage. But if you ask it the wrong question or even just get an odd feeling, it bolts.

"Now, one way of solving that is just to say, 'Fuck it. If we shoot it and stuff it, it'll be on stage every night.' It'll be stuffed and dead. But it'll look like a deer. So that's the choice. Would you rather have a stuffed deer every single night? Or would you rather try coaxing the living, breathing deer on stage, in the full knowledge that there will be nights when it just runs away and won't come back?".,,2282516,00.html

Saturday, 17 May 2008

A fundraising campaign: 500 people, €100 each

I launched a fundraising campaign recently to raise money to make a new dance piece for the theatre. To make it I'll use the material I've been developing through this residency. This doesn't mean I'm abandoning the investigation in public spaces; but I am ready to translate the knowledge gained from my research to the conventions of the theatre. There's a public in there too that I don't want to neglect. This research was never about undermining the presentation of dance in theatre but about extending its reach by taking the skills and specificity of dance in to environments where they could challenge and be challenged by unfamiliarity.

Or maybe I'm losing my nerve, anxious to maintain my reputation as a choreographer by presenting work in familiar packaging, eventhough the content is the same which ever box I come in.

In any case it's not an easy translation. The conventions of theatrical experimentation start asserting themselves as soon as I think about making a piece for the stage. What stage? When will it be free? Who will fund the work? Who will light it? What music? etc.

The exhilaration I've felt making this work outdoors in public spaces, (though let's not forget its dependency on the Dublin City Council residency and Arts Council support) derives from its relative spontanaeity and independence. If I make work in a theatre, then how do I retain the integrity of the work, or how, at least, do I find a way to make the architecture of the theatrical presentation a suitable home for this new work?

This fundraising campaign is different way of dealing with the architecture. Here's a letter I've sent out asking for help:

You can help me make a new dance piece.
I am looking for 500 people to donate €100 each.
In return I’ll be inviting you to see the show, celebrating what’s possible with the help of others and, if you want, I’ll be keeping you up to date with how the work in progressing. Of course, I’ll be thanking you a lot too.

This isn’t the usual way that dance performances get made in Ireland.
It’s something different.
It grows out of a failure. I missed an Arts Council application deadline. However, even though I was upset, ashamed and disappointed, I knew that I wanted to make this new piece because it needed to me made and not because I wanted to get some Arts Council funding. So I had to find another way to raise the necessary funds.

I’m asking your help because I think this new piece is important and could be beautiful.

It’s going to be called Niche and it’s about finding a place for ourselves, a niche, in an environment that’s changing all the time. It’s about living in cities with cranes on the skyline, about communities that aren’t like we remember. It’s about excitement and loss and it’s something I think we can all connect to.

It will premiere in Project Arts Centre on 22nd October.

I have four wonderful dancers from around the world whose movement moves me and I want to be able to share their skills with you in this new piece,

If you can contribute €100 to this piece, please send a cheque, making it payable to Project Arts Centre/ Niche, to

Project Arts Centre,
39 East Essex Street,
Temple Bar,
Dublin 2,

If you pass by Project and prefer to drop in, they’ll be able to help you there too.

When you make a contribution, make sure you leave your contact details. Project will issue you with a receipt and also a number so that you know how the appeal is going. And I’ll be in contact.

If you can’t make a contribution, you could pass this information to someone you think might; and please come to see the show.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Match at BAMOIC

Matthew and I perform in the Beijing Art Museum of the Imperial City.

Performing Match somewhere like BAMOIC is a complex series of compromises. I'm clear that I don't need a stage to show the work but I do need space for the long lines of the piece's energy to be visible. So I can't perform in the small courtyard with its mix of cobbled stones, stone seats and trees. Part of me feels bad for not being adaptable enough but I suppose it's clear to me that this work has to be about the negotiation between what I've prepared and what I find. The work can't be completely determined by the environment. There needs to be an integrity in the work that offers the possibility of redefining the environment in which it unfolds. The work claims the space it needs, where it needs it: though it can only claim what it needs from what is available.

Monday, 17 March 2008

Match in Beijing

Matthew and I are in Beijing performing Match as part of the Irish Arts Festival here. (Thanks to Culture Ireland and Dublin City Council who paid for us). Our performance was as the hors d'oeuvre to the official opening of an exhibition of Irish visual art. It was held at the Beijing Art Museum of the Imperial City ( in the centre of Beijing. However, eventhough, my work made it from the art periphery of 798 where I performed last year to this political centre (with a very considerate Minister Dick Roche and Ambassador Kelleher in attendance), yet again, it was about fitting the work to the constraints of the environment. This was the first time we performed indoors, so we had a narrow corridor with a tiled floor to contend with. No football boots then.

But the performance went well and it was a good opportunity to show the work, even if I started my performance with a nervous energy heightened from trying to preface the piece with a few well-rehearsed remarks in Irish, English and Chinese. (Eurovision was a formative cultural experience).

One of the elements of the visual arts exhibition was a series of photos by Varvara Shavrova ( that links the disappearing hutongs of Beijing to abandoned cottages near Ballycastle in Co.Mayo. I was pleased to find myself near this work that made visible links I sense in my own imagination.

Before we performed we warmed up in one of the gallery spaces that the catering staff was using for its preparations - all the hors d'oeuvres together.