Close up of face, to the left of the frame. One eye looks towards the right. Underneath the eye is cupped a metal spoon, almost as if it were directing the glance to the right


Local in Limerick

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Roberta Ceginskaite, Spoonful. Photo © Roberta Ceginskaite
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Local works paired with international ones on the stage of Dance Limerick’s What Next festival

This year, Ireland’s Dance Limerick simultaneously presented the sixth edition of their What Next Festival and hosted a European Dancehouse Network Atelier on ‘peripheral practices’. Though different in focus and format, the two had much in common: while the Atelier reflected on the dynamics of curation and collaboration between peripheries and centres, localities and mobilities (see our Springback writer’s experience here), the festival presented a programme that brought together international and local artists, newer with more experienced, younger with older. That idea was well framed by Francis Footwork on opening night, a VR performance for children by CoisCéim company director David Bolger, and Òwe on closing night, an ‘emotional resurrection of a personal and ancestral past’ by Nigerian-born Irish artist Mufutau Yusuf.

Between those performances were two evenings that staged new international choreography – Courtney May Robertson’s The pleasure of stepping of a horse when it’s moving at full speed, and Alexandre Fandard’s Comme un symbole (in the event, unfortunately cancelled) – alongside short creations by local artists. This kind of double programming levers an international presence to give exposure to local creations – and in that spirit I will look not at the visiting works (already reviewed by Springback Academy here and here), but at the local ones.

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Woman in loose vest and trousers, legs wide, arms outstretche and back and head titled upwards in a wide-open pose
Ali Clarke, Multitudes: Future Nostalgia. Photo © Ewa Figaszewska

Multitudes: Future Nostalgia, by young Irish dancer and choreographer Ali Clarke, explores the space of the kitchen. An inspiration that is clear right from the beginning, with the performer sitting at a table with a decorated cake in front of her. As she stares at the colourful frosting, she starts to tell a story, constantly interrupting herself, adding broken anecdotes that suggest a relationship in which the love language is food. The words match the dance: as she gets up from the chair, the movements are small, hinted at, stifled before they can develop into anything bigger. The stops and glimpses of movement seem to mirror the interruptions of the opening stories: maybe responding to some need for privacy. As she sits back down and dips her finger in the cake, we know that she’s probably taking a brave step, but in what direction remains unknown.

Limerick-based dancer and choreographer Rachel Sheil questions individuality in What to Say. She hits the stage to the sound of the 20th Century Fox Fanfare (known to cinemagoers the world over), its pomposity punctured by the ‘fake it till you make it’ smile on her face. A funny awkward fight between performer and music continues throughout the piece. Stealing techniques and steps from different styles, from the most contemporary clichés to hip hop echoes and ballet positions, she tries to find a space of silence for her to hold and finally talk. But she’s constantly interrupted by new jingles and light-hearted music that pulls her back to the pleasant and pleasing funny side. In this world of pop references, Sheil seems to have found an artistic signature to dig into: subtle melancholia invading the space of laughter, a lack of space viewed with the cynical and almost resigned irony of a generation that finds its practice of resistance in humour.

Slant by Mary Nunan playfully digs into the archive of a research that aims to create ‘something that is also a no-thing, but not nothing’. Nunan walks, bends, jumps, slides across the stage, explaining that she is ‘avoiding circles and spirals’ – indeed she comments throughout on what she is going to do, sometimes as if she was an external narrator. In contrast to the previous pieces, which also dealt with text and music, Nunan’s body holds and owns the stage on its own, strong with experience, sharing – but not showing – an archive of researches and performances that, rather than present a catalogue, help build a whole new piece. As she recalls other performances through movement and words, the audience starts to laugh, as if an inside joke between those who witnessed those moments and the performer linked them across the space.

Two very different moods hit the stage on the second night too. Spoonful by young Lithuanian-born Galway-based Roberta Ceginskaite starts from a very simple image from childhood: Mary Poppins’ Spoonful of Sugar, a song she hums on stage, inviting the audience to join. And yet her work is anything but simple. She duets with a spoon, exploring all the possibilities, limitations and creative ideas that could arise from the interaction with a mundane item turned stage prop. The piece is an absurd yet practical investigation of power dynamics, in which the Disney-like dream of an animate object becomes softly nightmarish, with a spoonful of playfulness.

Close up of the right hand of two people, touching each other on the floor, on uptruend, the other downturned with a string of pearly beads link a necklace wrapped around fingers and wrist.
sabella Oberlander and Fearghus Ó Conchuír: Queer Sanctuary. Photo © Nigel Enright

Queer Sanctuary is another duet, this time between performers Isabella Oberlander and Fearghus Ó Conchuír. A celebration, or maybe a ritual that – like every ritualistic practice – moves through different states of being, it is held together by a dance of wide open movements, mellow floorwork, uplifting embraces and intimate distances. The two performers invite us to be active witnesses right from the beginning, asking people to hold a chain of pearls, that will later appear on stage, contribute to the soundscape and the use of the space, like a shapeless rosary that matches whoever is taking care of it. With lighting first bright, then dark, then pink, the two dancers jump, meet, draw circles, and move on stage in black weightless short gowns that make them look like fairies from a Shakespearean world: strong and fierce, but inviting and playful. Offering us pearls, but keeping us slightly outside their secret world of struggles and joy, they tempt the audience with the attractive danger of the freedom to be oneself. 

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Limerick, Ireland
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