Beckett-inspired dance piece to headline a pop-up winter festival

It is November, the month of Samhain, the ancient Celtic festival marking the transition from summer to the darkest days of winter. But a live winter edition of the Dublin Dance Festival (DDF) should ease the spirits

Three of the four companies that perform throughout the month are local, but the mini-festival is hosted by the Compagnie Maguy Marin, which will breathe life into this winter edition under the direction of dancer and choreographer Maguy Marin. She is a veteran and quiet warrior of modern dance, first in her native France in the 1980s with a group of like-minded artists, then acclaimed internationally. Her mix of innovation, collaborations, risk taking, political awareness and passion for the art form sometimes divides audiences, but she always acts on her principles, continuing to test the limits. The company will present its iconic work, May B, a tribute to Samuel Beckett, first produced 30 years ago, a kind of homecoming with this premiere in Dublin.

Marin’s relationship with Beckett began when she was a young dancer at the Béjart Ballet in Brussels. “As a classical dancer, I was drawn to lyrics; I thought he was very aware of the human body, like me. In her work, she also found an affirmation of the idea that not all human bodies are models of idealized perfection, often the reverse and she wanted to experience this difference. The affinity continued and she approached Beckett to ask permission to use the lyrics as the basis for doing a dance piece. “I think,” continues Marin, speaking of Paris where she is creating a new work, “that he accepted and even encouraged me, even though I was young and unknown, because I came from this angle, from this body focus and movement I watched it instinctively, as a dancer and choreographer and he had perhaps not been approached that way before, well certainly not in France.

What became May B did not happen overnight. “I was developing as an artist and a person then, immersing myself in Beckett’s texts as I created the piece… it took me 10 years to finally get there. “

Maguy Marin is a veteran and a quiet warrior of modern dance

May B is not an interpretation of a play and includes, as Marin is quick to point out, “a single line of text, the opening of Endgame”. Familiar figures like Hamm or Pozzo will emerge from the raggle taggle cast of characters as dance, gesture and music lead the way. Schubert, a Beckett favorite and the more contemporary Gavin Bryars will be the main composers. “As in dance, I always feel the musicality and the poetry in his work and I loved this precision. Look at Quad, she exclaims, it’s like a dance.

Marin continued to feel his influence in several works that followed, most notably in his adaptation of his Worstward Ho. “I love the way he would play and explore the concept of exhausting possibility.” It refers to the French theorist and philosopher Gilles Deleuze who also noted this trait in Beckett. “All that incessant digging, to find the variations inside,” then she laughs “and the humor… think of Molloy and the stones.” For the local public who missed the only other Irish performance of this resonant work at Enniskillen in 2015, it will be a revelation, evoking the human and the uncertain.

Marin’s alignment with the marginalized, which prompted the relocation of his mid-career studio to an underprivileged area of ​​Lyon, seems to reverberate in the work of Catherine Young and her festival show, Floating on a Dead Sea. . The work emanates from his visits to Palestine, his work with local dancers and his observations of daily life, constraints and transgressions, resilience and joy. Once again, with connective threads to Marin, she reflects on the uncomfortable, on the unequal realities of the body politic. In addition to an article exploring the politics and reality of direct supply, Welcoming the Stranger focuses on the experience of migrants. Commissioned as part of the 1916 centenary commemorations, this work was then invited to open the Ramallah dance festival. Her shared experience of life there through her work with local dancers, the challenge of retaining their traditional culture prompted her to make a documentary film and stage work commissioned by DDF in partnership with Backstage Theater. A collaboration with Palestinian dancers now residing in Ireland goes hand in hand with the ghostly presence of recorded remote partnerships with dancers in Ramallah.

“It’s a hybrid,” says Young, “of dance, film, spoken word and music. The past two years of building bridges and connections in containment have been extraordinary; zoom rooftop auditions, remote rehearsal.

Young often refers to this work as “testimony” and The Misunderstanding of Myrrha, by Junk Ensemble, is also a form of will. This commissioned festival piece is a collaboration of dancers Megan and Jessica Kennedy with visual artist Alice Maher and composer Denis Clohessy as they reimagine the Greek myth of the cursed Myrrha. Destined by the cunning of the goddess Aphrodite to fall in love with her father and have a child Adonis with him, Myrrha’s fate was included in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, a series of mythical tales of gods and transformations.

This notion of transformation becomes central in this living story; the fleeing Myrrha is still mistreated by the gods and turned into a tree, her tears of shame keeping her resin oozing out. The visualization of the woman as a tree isn’t literal, but Alice Maher’s intricate design of silver birch trees atop a pillar promises to galvanize audiences. They will follow Myrrha, in her once muffled female voice, telling her own story as she goes through cycles of grief, shame, trauma and hope. Megan Kennedy notes that interpreter Julie Koenig as Myrrha is “the perfect blend of strength and vulnerability”. The piece is emphasized by Clohessy’s score, which is played primarily on the organ, the textured layers of the instrument promising to capture tones from shame to hope or, as Jessica Kennedy suggests, “we’ll feel with it. her and will be with her on her journey through and beyond her trauma ”.

The Misunderstanding of Myrrha by Junk Ensemble is a collaboration between dancers Megan and Jessica Kennedy with visual artist Alice Maher and composer Denis Clohessy

The Misunderstanding of Myrrha by Junk Ensemble is a collaboration between dancers Megan and Jessica Kennedy with visual artist Alice Maher and composer Denis Clohessy

Demos, Liz Roche’s offer also has a Greek subtext, invoking the sense of democracy, of the collective and shared place of ancient civilization. “I’ve always been interested in creating a piece that explores the dynamics and patterns that emerge when groups of dancers and musicians interact and engage together,” she says. Crash Ensemble, for whom a score has been specially written by David Coonan, are his collaborators for the project. And while the work was shown at the digital summer festival, Roche notes, “I really wanted that physical presence.”

She is very aware of the recent absence of touch and talks about feeling moved by dancers “even close to each other”. She also remembers “as a dancer, I have always enjoyed moving with other dancers; I loved the energy, the benchmarks against each other. I always had the impression that we were crossing a line together ”. Yet she admits to having kept repeated fragments during the restriction period. “I discovered that I wanted to hold on to this tension created by this distancing.”

As for the music, presence is a huge factor: “With Crash Ensemble, the interaction of these musicians with the dancers and Crash’s great sense of performance are essential to the piece. While not quite on the scale she’d dreamed of, “the demos will still feature eight dancers and three musicians live,” she says, “unbelievably.”

Jazmin Chiodi is the new director of the dance festival. Appointed during the pandemic, she is “delighted to inherit the legacy of this winter edition, left to me by Benjamin Perchet and I am really looking forward to celebrating again the uniqueness of the performance space and to connect with our festival audiences ”.

The Winter Edition Dublin Dance Festival runs from November 2 to 27

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