Passionate Performances: The Dublin Dance Festival 2009

It’s May and so it’s time for the Dublin Dance Festival again!
Dance events usually attract a pretty specific type of crowd. The audiences at most shows are generally made up of about 70% women, many of them dancers themselves or at least into movement in some shape or form. There is also a particular language that goes with contemporary dance, its choreography and performance, which I found a bit daunting at first as I would be much more familiar with writing, filmmaking and music myself. The sheer enthusiasm and joy in what a body can do and the many ways it can be used to express oneself was incredibly infectious though! So it was an absolute pleasure to be part of the volunteer team at the Dublin Dance Festival for the second time around.
Festival director Laurie Uprichard, a former dancer and choreographer, who originally hails from New York, has an amazing eye for picking just the right combination of shows which are all somehow magically interwoven and never just a collection of projects arund the same theme. If there was a connection between all of them at this year’s festival it would be questioning one’s cultural and spiritual identity. As Laurie remarks in the festival brochure “we go to see art not to get answers, but to consider new questions” and that was certainly the case for me as night after night I went home thinking how amazing every performance had been, each in its own way. Be it because of the unique skill and talent of particular dancers, an incredibly creative choreography, a brilliant overall arrangement or simply because a show made me laugh, cry, think, dream or – most importantly of all want go to a dance class!!
Over 15 days (which is a major achievement in itself as far as I’m concerned) dance companies from no less than 9 countries wowed the Irish audiences with shows that included both more traditional as well as experimental Irish and international performances, outdoor events (bumper to bumper headphone disco a huge success in its second year, especially with the younger crowd and phew it didn’t rain that night!), a dance on film program and many more.
Dublin's Junk Ensemble Performance on Meeting House Square

Dublin's Junk Ensemble Performance on Meeting House Square

As the festival was on for two weeks it was lovely to meet the festival crew and other volunteers night after night, comparing what we’d seen, what favourites we had (plenty of ‘oh no, I missed that one’ or ‘I MUST go and see that one tomorrow night’ could be overheard) and also to meet some of the dancers and choreographers themselves. Some of the shows had a pre- or after-show talk, which I was a huge fan of (and very grateful for) as I’m still in the process of educating myself more about dance in its many forms. Having listened to Melbourne choreographer Lucy Guerin, for instance, explain about the background to her piece ‘Structure and Sadness’ the starting point for which was the collapse of a large bridge in Melbourne in the 70s, made me even more interested in certain details of the stunning performance.

I found it really difficult to pick highlights as there were so many and all the shows impressed me with their uniqueness and incredible talent behind them. However, I will never forget the haunting songs and intense emotions in ‘Apocrifu’, the lightness and joyful movement of ‘One Shot’, ‘Fall and Recover’ with its amazing part-amateur cast of people dancing their personal experiences, Rachid Ouramdane’s moving solo piece ‘Loin…’ and ‘Soul Project’, the last show of the festival, with a lovely, humorous immediacy that led us seemlessly into the end of the festival party at the Project Arts Centre. Over a (well-deserved) glass of wine we talked about what a fun two weeks it had been. A time full of learning and new experiences and exchanging ideas (and email addresses) with others who were just as enthusiastic about what life can be like when we follow our passions and don’t let get anything else in the way.
I cannot wait for next May…
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