Fearghus Ó Conchúir Choreographer and Dance Artist

Yearly Archives: 2009

December 15, 2009

Sweet spot 4 – Irish Times article

We preview Sweet Spot tomorrow and though the film is still not finished, I’m sure that by tomorrow it will be. I’ve enjoyed seeing Stéphane dance the solo that acts as a balance to the soft and female energy of the film: time with Xiao Ke in China appears to be having its influence on the work in a variety of unexpected ways.

Meanwhile, Michael Seaver has written a warm feature in the Irish Times about the Macushla Dance Group and its involvement in Triptik, the triple bill in which Sweet Spot is being performed. Unfortunately, the lovely Teresa of whom he writes has broken her hip and won’t be able to perform. It’s terrible for Teresa and she is a real loss to Ríonach’s piece though the group is rallying round. But I learned from the Macushla ‘girls’ who worked with me that you can’t take anything for granted. At the end of rehearsal, I would say, ‘See you tomorrow’. To which they replied, ‘Please God’.

December 05, 2009

Sweet spot 3 – Create Interview

Rebecca, Ríonach and I were interviewed by Clíodhna Shaffrey about Triptik for one of Create’s podcasts.

In Part One the three choreographers talk about the genesis of Triptik and the way this work challenges preconceptions of who should be on stage, who can make art and who can dance.

November 26, 2009

Sweet Spot 2

With Sweet Spot, I’ve been checking that I am guided by my artistic instincts and not by a therapeutic intentions. One of the ways that I thought I could be true to my artistic instinct is that I would use this project to learn something and to push myself into a new area of practice. The piece is called Sweet spot and in it, I’m trying to explore joy. Of course, joy for me doesn’t mean jubilation and hilarity but it is a departure. I’m doing that because I have grown comfortable in the darker emotional terrain and that comfort conditions the work that I make. While Sweet spot may end up in that terrain (and putting a solo before and after the film is probably going to do that!), I hope that by setting off in the direction of joy that I may end up somewhere I haven’t been before.

I’ve also tried to integrate some of my experience in China in my work with other people. Through Tai Chi, Qi Gong and my collaboration with Xiao Ke, I’ve been trying to assimilate new movement information into my own body. This was the first time that I tried to pass that work on to others.

I taught Tai Chi (Wu form) to all the performers and it proved a good common ground for professionals and non-professionals. It also helped us to start rehearsals with a particular calmness that may not have been jumping bean joy but that felt like edging closer to a sweet spot (or maybe what I think is a sweet spot).

It’s interesting that for Niche and other recent projects, I haven’t led a group warm up, providing instead space and time for the performers to prepare themselves as they wished. In doing so, we started rehearsal as individuals sharing a space. Doing Tai Chi together on the other hand created a common space and a common point of departure.

One of the elements of the piece that feels right to me is a moment when the group of women sew and stick together a blanket of autumn leaves. Connecting to the natural cycle and celebrating the autumnal phase seems particularly appropriate to this group. There’s an element of the fairytale in the image too – Rumplestiltskin, Babes in the Wood.

November 26, 2009

Sweet spot

For the past three weeks, I’ve been working on a commission for an evening of work called Triptik.

The evening is produced by Ríonach Ní Néill and her company Ciotóg (in association with Project Arts Centre) and it will take place in Project Arts Centre from 15th-19th December. Ríonach also runs the Machusla Dance Club for over 50s and has been finding ways to extend the club and her own artistic practice by involving club members in her work. For a triple bill, she’s commissioned me and Rebecca Walter to make pieces that include performers from the Machusla dance club and professional dancers.

Accepting the commission raised a number of questions for me since I wanted to work out how I could be true to my artistic instinct and practice and still work in a way that respected the input of all the participants.

I’m still in the middle of the creation process since I decided to make a film for the performance which James Kelly of Feenish Productions is directing. We’ve completed the filming but now the editing has to be done and while I did some of the choreographic work to generate the material for the film, there’s another choreographic job to be done in determining the rhythm, structure and tone of the film. I also intend to add a live element to the performance and expect that will take the form of a solo for Stéphane Hisler as a prelude and coda to the film.

I decided to add the live element since the film features only female performers and, as with Niche, I wanted to add a kind of balance to that gender dominance. I also imagine that the solo will be a counterpoint to the predominantly group activity of the film and consequently introduce a different emotional colour.

October 31, 2009

In the world in which we lived

What distinguished Cunningham from all other great choreographers was the degree of his inclusiveness. He invented dance movements that were modern and new, but even more revolutionary was the way he placed them in the world in which we lived.

Cunningham could never take his eyes off the street, and the dynamic that we all witness everyday is what he embraced. And he proved that music, costumes, set designs, lighting and sound could all exist independently on stage, just like they do in our lives, so long as there is a general shared aesthetic.

On Wednesday no one could actually watch everything, since people hovered closely around the stages. But dance was all around us. Music was all around us. And people were all around us. The audience could sit and watch and listen, or people could wander and socialize and have a glass of wine while paying a compliment to an art-world luminary such as Jasper Johns.

Mark Swed in the New York Times on the Merce Cunningham memorial ‘Events’ at the Park Avenue Armory in New York last Wednesday

October 30, 2009

Pick’n’Mix:The Dance Selection/Photographs

Some of the performers and choreographers with the Mayor, Cllr Anna Mbachu who joined in with enthusiasm in the workshop that Shelby Williams and Stephen Berkley White led for New Adventures.

Shahla Tarrant dancing among the letters of the Woolworths signage in my piece ‘For Woolworths’

Pieter Symonds and Thomasin Gülgeç in Kim Brandstrup‘s DK60

And some fun coverage in the local newspaper


October 26, 2009

Pick’n’Mix:The Dance Selection/ The numbers

On Saturday, for Pick’n’Mix:The Dance Selection in the empty Woolworths in Leytonstone, eight Waltham Forest choreographers presented seven pieces, of which three were new works. The works were performed by 20 dancers.
A new visual art installation illuminated the shop windows.
300 people, from toddlers to pensioners, attended the three performances.
Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures dancers led two workshops on the day with 35 participants and Dean James led two more in local schools in the run up to the event with 50 participants.
Meanwhile, 6 dance films by Waltham Forest choreographers filled the BBC Big Screen in Walthamstow and a documentary of Pick’n’Mix:The Dance Selection will be played alongside them when it is edited.

Choreographers: Kim Brandstrup, Dean James, Tashan Muir, Fearghus O’Conchuir, Seeta Patel and Kamala Devam, Stephanie Schober, Bettina Strickler,

Performers: Vincent Bugg, Elisabetta D’Aloia, Kamala Devam, Thomasin Gülgeç, Katsura Isobe, Seeta Patel, Luke Sawyer, Stephanie Schober, Pieter Symonds, Shahla Tarrant, Unity Youth.

Films by Seeta Patel and Kamala Devam, Fearghus O’Conchuir, Freddie Opoku Addaie, Stephanie Schober , Angela Towler and Martin Joyce.

Workshops led by Dean James, Stephen Berkley-White and Shelby Williams

Installation by Frances Bowman

Helped by the choreographers, the performers, East London Dance, Waltham Forest Council, The Arts Council of England, Leytonstone Arts Trail artists, and the BBC Big Screen

October 23, 2009

Pick’n’Mix:The Dance Selection/The Night before

I haven’t had time to post updates about Pick’n’Mix. It’s been a lot of work but tonight as I locked up, I felt calm and pleased by what we’ve achieved and hopeful that it will be ok tomorrow.

Yesterday Stephanie Schober rehearsed with her dancer weaving a complex pattern thoughtful energy between the Woolworths’ columns.

Today I watched Seeta Patel and Kamala Devam rehearse in the Woolworths for the first time. I’d assumed that because they’d be coming late to the space that they mightn’t be able to engage with it but they saw possibilities for how to insert the work into the building in a way that excites them and enhances the work in an unexpected way

Later Shahla came so we could finish off the piece I’ve made with her, called For Woolworths, and choreographed among the letters of the shop signage.

We rehearsed at the same time as Dean James whose dancers were leaping over the cash register and we passed the baton to Bettina Strickler whose performer Elisabeta D’Aloia was twirling a sweeping brush to Strauss when I left for dinner. By the time I got back, Bettina was imagining ball gowns and feathered head-dresses instead of sweeping brushes and I love that the space has encouraged a sense of playfulness and experimentation. I was happy too to have helped create a space where these choreographers could work side by side, generously, creatively and in that spirit, share their work with the audience tomorrow.

Because this spirit is the most important thing for me, I’ve resisted all of pressures that I feared would compromise the openness on which this spirit thrives. My job was to create a structure to support and avoid strictures that would stifle. I’m sure that’s not the way to get things done in other circumstances, but being in a Woolworths allows me to adapt the rules.

October 05, 2009

Pick’n’Mix:The Dance Selection/Site visit

We’re almost there, by which I mean that by Wednesday I hope that I will have the key to Woolworths to allow us to start rehearsing there in preparation for Pick’n’Mix:The Dance Selection on the 24th October. We visited today to allow some of the choreographers- Bettina Strickler and Dean James – to see the space for the first time. It was great to see their excitement and enthusiasm at the possibilities of the space and to realise that they see possibilities that I hadn’t noticed.

I’m still a little anxious that I’m the one who’s carrying the financial risk for the project. If I’m not successful in my Grants for the Arts application, there’s a big shortfall in the budget which I have taken responsibility for – it was the only way to ensure that the project takes place. And Pick’n’Mix:The Dance Selection has to happen, not just this once but again: I’ve already identified four or five more choreographers who can’t take part on the 24th that should be in another programme. Maybe it’s a franchise!

October 01, 2009

Dearbhla Walsh wins Emmy

I was delighted to see that Dearbhla Walsh won an Emmy recently for her work on Little Dorrit. I met her when she directed my dance film Match that was commissioned by RTÉ/An Chomairle Ealaíon for the Dance on the Box series. Dearbhla was already a successful director of TV series then but she was still prepared to work on art projects like our film because she felt those projects kept her ideas fresh. She saw a benefit to her more visible TV work from contributing to artistic collaborations like Match.