Fearghus Ó Conchúir Choreographer and Dance Artist

Yearly Archives: 2013

November 20, 2013

‘The renaissance has begun’ – Arts and Culture in Waltham Forest

Earlier this month, I took part in a networking evening for ‘creatives’ in Waltham Forest where I’ve lived since moving to London 20 years ago, having fallen in love with dance and with Pete. Hosted at the William Morris Gallery (deservedly and delightfully Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year 2013), the event was a great opportunity to meet some of the many people in Waltham Forest who are involved in the cultural sector both locally and in (mostly London-based) national cultural institutions like the Royal Opera House and the Barbican. I’ve always known that the borough is home to creative people. Good transport links and relatively affordable housing are pragmatic reasons why that’s the case. Pick’n’Mix:the Dance Selection was my way of highlighting the choreographic talent (Kim Brandstrup, Freddie Opoku, Stephanie Schober, Matthew Bourne, Jonathan Goddard) in and from the borough that rarely gets an opportunity to connect with audiences in Waltham Forest.

When the Council developed its Cultural Strategy in 2010 (Taking Our Place in London), I wasn’t so confident that the council was aware of its cultural resources, particularly among borough residents. Since 2010, Cultural and Leisure Services have been moved around within the Council structure and sits now in the Health and Wellbeing portfolio of Cllr Ashan Khan. Although that placement within the priorities on the council has an impact on how arts and culture is framed there is a lot to celebrate and be encouraged by how arts and culture is being invested in.

Waltham Forest Council is about to launch an Arts Grants scheme of £200k to be spent over the next 18 months. It also has a £9 million programme to improve the Borough’s High Streets and an arts regeneration committee currently developing a public art policy. The regeneration of The Scene at Cleveland Place which incorporates a Cinema will release significant S106 funding to be used artistically and creatively. This together with a pending bid to the Arts Council for capital funding towards a new performing arts space in Leytonstone and a renewed partnership with Film London demonstrates what the Council calls a ‘commitment of ensuring that Waltham Forest becomes a cultural destination and a place for its residents to satisfy their artistic thirst.’

Of course there is a typical and understandable focus on ‘communities’ as audiences or participants in this investment with an almost inevitable separation of artists from those communities when in fact many of the borough’s residents are simultaneously artists and audiences – some professional artists, others enthusiastic and often skilled amateurs. The Council would do well to support participation by its residents in artistic activity at all levels, supporting professional and non-professional practice and ensuring there is an ecology where the range between professional and non-professional is interconnected and mutually reinforcing.

There is a great appeal for me in being able to access cultural activity near home, being able to make work near home and being able to connect with people who want to engage with my work and its ideas near home. Rehearsing Porous down the road in Dean James’ KNI Hub studios in Blackhorse Rd last summer was a real pleasure. I notice that RSA has also been recommending that there should be more place-based commissioning (see Vikki Heywood’s inaugural lecture as Chairman of the RSA, encouraging greater connection between artists, cultural organisations and local communities. I do worry, despite my own enthusiasm for what is possible in Waltham Forest, that again there is an assumed separation between artists and communities, a lack of recognition that artists are part of community (even peripherally, though often centrally), and that the understanding of who communities are needs interrogation. For me communities and places need to be thought of as porous entities, open to inward and outward movement, as indeed a borough like Waltham Forest is, and also as entities that are constituted by difference and healthy disagreement. Too often the language of social cohesion sounds like a smoothing out of difference, with cultural activity expected to provide social glue, when in fact much art is a way of giving form to a dynamic of differences held in tension. While I want to play my part in making Waltham Forest ‘a place for its residents to satisfy their artistic thirst’, I want to keep in mind that those residents are multiple, that the communities they form and reform are in constant flux and that the thirsts that need satisfying are many and varied.


October 17, 2013


1005310_10151461365691626_573709327_nToday we brought Porous from the studio in Donegall St, Belfast to the Writer’s Square nearby. Porous is a 20 minute piece I’ve been invited to make for Maiden Voyage as part of their Dance Exposed series that brings dance into public spaces. It will premiere officially in the Belfast Festival this weekend, with three performances on Saturday in the gallery space at the MAC and three further performances on Sunday in the foyer of the Ulster Museum.

I don’t often do commissions and I was curious to know what prompted Nicola Curry, Artistic Director of Maiden Voyage to invite me to make a piece for the company. I think my experience of working in public space, on bodies and buildings, was part of the attraction. However I was concerned that I would have to work with a group of dancers I didn’t know and manufacture a piece in two weeks just before the show. I have no doubt I could do that, but I’m not sure that the resulting work would connect with or develop the kind of choreographic process I’m happy to have been involved in recently. Fortunately, Nicola was very accommodating, so instead of making the piece in a couple of weeks before the premiere, I arranged for us to work during the summer, with a further week of rehearsal just before the opening. By having that time in the summer, I felt that I could get to know the dancers, experiment and take risks trying out different things, without the immediate and often suffocating pressure of an imminent deadline ( a pressure that would compromise my openness and that of the performers). I knew that whatever we did in the summer, I could always set the experiments aside and return to safe ground in October if necessary. I found that freedom very positive as Vasiliki, Carmen, Oona and I worked in the sunshine in studios that are a bike-ride away from my home in Walthamstow.


Though Nicola talked about the commission for Dance Exposed being site-specific, I understood that the work would travel to different sites and therefore needed to be more site-responsive. That responsiveness needed to be in the structure of the work but also in the way the performers would inhabit the choreography and the space. I enjoyed generating with them material for an improvisation and approaches to that improvisation that would guide, connect and free them. I wanted them to be porous to their own sensations, to the interaction inside the trio, and to the environment in which their structure was unfolding. The multi-dimensional task was not easy, but as we draw closer to the premiere, I am very happy to see their increasing skill in navigating the task, individually and together. I am delighted by the surprises that emerge from this now familiar structure and material.

Photo from Vasiliki Stasinaki

Photo from Vasiliki Stasinaki

Already in the summer, we took the rehearsals out of the studio, to make sure that the dancers could experience sensations beyond the confines and familiarity of white walls. Today Porous made sense to me in Writer’s Square. It seemed to belong, despite its idiosyncratic movement language. Passers-by could wander through the trio without destroying it, because the choreographic structure could already accommodate that different energy. Its boundaries are permeable, not defined by footlights or proscenium arch. Even a group of stoned teenagers who initially threatened to disrupt the choreography gradually became enfolded in it, one young woman standing close to watch the dancers while the others sat on a wall to observe. I was alert, wondering if I needed to protect the dancers, but I’m glad that they found a way to be in the work without shutting off or out the encroaching energy.

This structure I have made with them owes much to what I’ve learned from the Cure choreographers and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to transform the things I’ve learned for a group of dancers that I haven’t known as long or deeply as I have those with whom I normally work. I’m very curious now to see how audiences will respond.

October 16, 2013

Cure: Remembering discussion, food and flow at the Dublin Dance Festival

As I continue to tour Cure, and try to extend the choreography in a way that invites people in to the work from different angles, it’s great to have this video reminder of the the supper we held at Fire Station Artist’s Studios before the premiere in the Dublin Dance Festival last May. Many thanks especially to the Patrick and Katherine at Create and to Julia, Ellie and Tiina at the Dublin Dance Festival who invested so much personal energy, as well as the support of their organisation in making the supper a valuable experience. Thanks also to everyone who participated.
My continuing experience of talking about Cure over food convinces me that it’s an important way to connect and to give people a way in to the performance.

October 07, 2013

Cure: Autumn tour – Ennis and Tralee

1146444_395539367238111_1490736320_nLast night’s performance at Siamsa Tíre was one of the most challenging versions of Cure I’ve done to date. Preparing for the tour has been different to preparing for the premiere. Instead of concentrated time in a dance studio, I’ve been rehearsing the material in bedrooms and conference rooms as well as the occasional dance space, integrating Cure with the other things that I do. I’ve kept folding a crane a day.

At Siamsa last night the audience was small but what was difficult is that they were far away. Siamsa’s auditorium is luxurious but quite big and people seemed to sit away from the stage that also has an apron in front of it creating more distance between the seats and the playing area onstage. Fortunately my talking to people after the opening section meant that I had some sense of where people were; but throughout the performance, I found it difficult to feel their connectedness and had to draw on other resources to sustain the energy of the piece.

It’s not about the size of the audience, though. Last week at glór in Ennis, we had a similarly small audience but something about the seating arrangement that brought the audience close to the stage meant that I felt their involvement throughout and could build on that. Also, and this is perhaps crucial, I had had an opportunity to host a Cure-focused lunch the day before the performance, following the model of the Cure supper we had before the premiere in Dublin. There were just 10 people at the lunch but facilitating a discussion around personal experiences of recovery and drawing lessons from that filled me with information that fed the performance next evening. As I remind people, Cure may have a single performer on stage but it doesn’t feel like a solo. It’s only possible because that my body onstage is connected to a network of others who inform me. Part of my job as performer is to remain permeable to new information that can feed the work, as well as staying in contact with the impulses that have created the work.


In Ennis, I felt I’d planted the seeds for a brief community to emerge around Cure. At Siamsa, even though I have a long and happy association with the National Folk Theatre of Ireland, I didn’t have that opportunity to establish a connection locally before the performance and it tells me something that I felt the lack when I performed. Happily, the post-show discussion, for which over half the small audience stayed, suggesting that the performance itself had generated a connection. There were a wide range of people at the talk, one for whom it was his first experience of dance and who was grateful to have the opportunity to hear someone talk about the processes and ideas involved in something that was so new to him. Another man noticed and appreciated the economy and detail in how materials were used in the piece. He seemed touched by the folded chairs. There was an older gentleman who spoke beautifully about how he enjoys contemplating forms and movement in nature, in animals and in rock formations, and could read and respond to the dancing with the same attentiveness. We discussed what it was that prevented more people coming to see contemporary dance and one woman suggested that some people might be uncomfortable having experiences, sensations and emotions for which they have no vocabulary. If that’s true I wish I could find the way to reassure people that it’s ok not to have the words. I am always happy that the right people find their way to the performances (I don’t expect that it’s for everyone) but I do believe there are more people that could be the right people if only I could let them know that it will be ok. The challenge is that some of what people appreciate is exactly what would have put them off coming if they’d known it in advance. That post-show discussion reassured me that Cure had a resonance in Tralee, as it did in Ennis. And it’s that reassurance that makes the investment of time, resources and energy worthwhile, for however many people see it. Thanks to the Arts Council’s investment in touring that is possible in practice.

August 20, 2013

Cure: performances in London and Cork

The Cure 64I’ve wanted to write about my continuing experiences of performing Cure but it’s been difficult to think about resuming those experiences in a coherent blog post when they feel like they are still unfolding on many different levels. I performed Cure at The Place as part of the Spring Loaded season and, unlike Tabernacle which we presented there in 2011, I felt that we’d managed to create or find a better context for the work in that theatre. I was very happy with the reception and with the engagement of the audience as evidenced in the post-show discussion, hosted by Luke Pell. ( I asked Luke to host the discussion as I trusted his ability to frame the work in a way that felt right. Of course asking him was a kind of curatorial framing of the event on my part.) I’ve also performed Cure at Firkin Crane as part of the Cork Midsummer Festival. While the Place stage is almost identical to Project Arts Centre, Firkin Crane’s is quite different, but I was ready to deal with the changes that will be necessary as we tour the piece and bring it to different locations. Cure feels like it has a sufficiently strong identity now to be able to cope with alteration and accommodation.

I’ve enjoyed each time getting on stage to perform Cure. It’s not a piece I enjoy rehearsing on my own and that is not surprising since it was never conceived as a solitary experience even though it’s a solo. It was made always with at least two in the room and even when I rehearsed in Dublin before the choreographers came, I always had Ciaran or Mags or Alma watching, always preparing me for the audience who are necessary to complete the experience of the work. For practical reasons now I have to rehearse the piece between tour dates on my own and it is difficult. Getting on stage reconnects me now with what I know to be the distinctiveness and identity of this piece.

The recent newsletter from Create features an essay by Grant Kester called Collaborative Art and the Limits of Criticism. In it Kester draws a distinction between ‘conventional art practice [where] the act of production is distinct and clearly separate from the subsequent reception of the work by viewers, during which the artist is typically
not present.’ and ‘dialogical art practices [where] production and reception co-occur, and reception itself is re-fashioned as a mode of production. As a result, the moment of reception is not hidden or unavailable to the artist, or the critic. Moreover, the experience of reception extends over time, through an exchange in which the responses of the collaborators result in subsequent transformations in the form of the work as initially presented.’ Though I’m not sure Grant would have Cure in mind when thinking about dialogical practice or collaborative art, I recognise in my experience of Cure the kind of dialogue to which he refers. Cure is a live performance. While the audience may not move about, their interaction with the work, – a kind of engaged viewership rather than passive consumption – is what makes and remakes it. That engagement extends over time, in the performance and beyond. The feedback of which I’m most proud is from people who say they couldn’t stop thinkiing about the piece or that the images stayed with them:
‘The images are still fixed in my head and I cannot and do not want to rid of them. ‘
Some who subsequently write about their experience of the work in their own blogs extend my experience of the work and reassure me that its ephemerality in the stage space is balanced by its ability to embed traces of itself in the thoughts and bodies of others. For Kester, ‘Conventional object-based practices are clearly finite; they exist for a fixed period time (the duration of an exhibition or commission, for example), and then end.’ While it might seem that a dance performance is similarly finite, in Cure, and in all my work, I want to focus on how, like the dialogical practices, that Kester favours, my work ‘can unfold over weeks, months and even years, and [its] spatial contours or boundaries typically fluctuate, expand and contract over time. As a result, this work confronts the critic with a very different set of questions. When does the work “begin” and when does it “end”?’ The work of Cure is more than a single performance. Cure is the itinerant and diverse process of its creation, it is the community who watched it evolve in the studio, in the experiences of those who saw it on stage so far, in the sharing of food and conversation that we facilitated as part of the Dublin Dance Festival and that I will continue in various forms when we tour in the Autumn, in the conversations with UCLH to do a workshop with patients and clinicians that in the end didn’t happen. Cure continues in my body and I am curious to see how it emerges again in performance when I return to it this Autumn.

‘Time, in the conventions of avant-garde artistic production, is always synchronic; new insight is transmitted to the viewer through a singular and a-temporal moment of shocked recognition. This model of reception assumes a viewer who is operating under the enforced thrall of an ideological system, which can only be broken by a countervailing moment of homeopathic violence. As a result, there is no understanding of receptive time beyond the moment of disruption itself. With dialogical art practices temporality is both extensive and irregular, marked by a series of incremental subdivisions within the larger, unfolding rhythm of a given work. As a result, it’s necessary to develop a system of diachronic analysis and notation that can encompass the project as a whole in it’s movement through moments of conflict and resolution, focusing on the productive tension between closure and disclosure, resistance and accommodation.’

In the meantime, I continue to fold one crane a day….

August 20, 2013

Cure: Things I’ve learned

Cure 12
Things I’ve learned:
That I’m not alone
To ask for help
To trust instinct
To practice
To be disciplined
To work hard
To listen to when it’s time to ease off
To take a risk
To soften
To enjoy the power I can muster in my body
To access and harness the emotional energies, such as anger, that I usually avoid as negative
To keep learning
To honour what I’ve already learned

June 12, 2013

Cure – Final rehearsals before the premiere

It’s been an effort to make myself write about the final rehearsals and first public performances of Cure. It’s not that writing and reflection isn’t important but I, with the help of others, have put much energy, focus and attention into the embodiment of the work, particularly in the concentrated form of a performance, and writing about it doesn’t have the compelling necessity that dancing it does. Maybe the difference is obvious from that last phrase – to write about it (outside it, around it, at a remove) and to dance it (do it, be it, no space between). That doesn’t mean that I’m not happy that Cure might stimulate others to respond in a variety of ways that include talking and writing. 923387_330521413739907_1727777824_n

In the first week of final rehearsals in Dublin, I organised with Create and The Dublin Dance Festival to host a supper at The Firestation Artists’ Studios where, over home-cooked food, we could discuss cure from different perspectives. The idea of having such a supper came from the very enjoyable lunch I was asked to curate for Metal as part of their Liverpool Biennial activities last year. At the supper, care and attention was given by Katherine Atkinson and Patrick Fox of Create in preparing food and the space, and by Julia Carruthers and the whole team at the Dublin Dance Festival office who prepared food and helped generously with the serving on the evening. I expected that I’d have to do the food preparation myself, and I did make enough soda bread to feed 50 people!, but I was very grateful that people who were very busy themselves took the time to help. For the 20 or so people who attended, I facilitated conversation about what cure and recovery might mean, and we encouraged the guests to leave notes on the table cloth and write postcards about what they were taking away from the event.

However, beyond this discursive element, there was an engagement that happened at another level, a connection to self and others that happened in the short qi gong warm up I led, in the gathering around a table to share food, in the time taken from other concerns to sit with strangers and listen. Whatever the discursive outcome of that supper, I was happy that we had, through care and thought, created an atmosphere that connected people in warmth, enquiry and openness. And this was already part of Cure, if not one that would be directly manifested in the performance.

The first week of my final rehearsals at Dancehouse, I taught professional class. It’s been a growing pleasure to find a dynamic and skilled dance community taking class in Dublin. Part of the pleasure for me comes from seeing familiar experienced dancers sharing the space and energy with a new generation of performers. In the context of Cure, I was glad to be able to share some of the old knowledge in my body with this group. And it was good for me to start each day with the energy of a group to lead me in to my own rehearsals.

One of the things I noticed straight away in the studio was that it was unfamiliar to have a production team (Ciarán the lighting designer, Alma the sound designer, Mags the stage manager) sitting in rehearsals watching me. When I’ve made solo work before, I haven’t had a team to help, and when I have had a production team, it’s been making work like Tabernacle where there’s been a group of dancers for me to focus on, while the production team watch and take the information they needed. For Cure, I had to manage my own sense of having to display something for the people watching. I also had an immediate sense of guilt that other people’s energy was directed towards me. But once I established a rhythm to rehearsals (warm up, run on my own, lunch, warm up for the team, notes and discussions), the guilt eased and instead I felt energised by the supportive watching. I knew in their watching Alma, Ciarán and Mags were trying to make sure that the performance would be as good as it could be. It quickly made sense to me too that they should be in the studio since, even though it’s a solo, I never imagined Cure as a solitary procedure. It was always designed to be made with others (the choreographers) and directed to others (the audience). Being in the studio on my own was fine at the beginning of the day but solitude wasn’t the goal and it wasn’t a useful thing to practice since the real task was to understand how the material of Cure worked with an audience and how I should be to mediate that relationship.

In addition to the production team, I opened rehearsals to whoever wanted to come to see the afternoon run-throughs. It was very helpful to practice being nervous in front of people and to experiment with how to present the material to them in different ways.

I became nervous again when it was time for the choreographers to gather and see the work. It was instinct that made me set about making Cure in the way we have. And I responded to that instinctual impulse by organising a structure that seemed fair and could be explained: two weeks with each choreographer, asking each one to make a 10 minute solo: but I didn’t really know how all of that would work out. I’d left a two-week rehearsal period at the end to give myself time to work on assembling the whole piece and I’d left some time with the choreographers to use their perspectives to help with that. In actuality, by the time I arrived in Dublin to start the final two weeks, it was very evident to me how the piece would be put together. I saw that I could go through the different solos in a particular order that made a dramaturgical and choreographic sense. I’d lived with the material in my body, some of it from over a year. On the first day of rehearsal in Dublin, I rehearsed and ran together the first three parts. On the second day, I ran through the other three parts in order. On the third day I ran all six in order and that order didn’t change between then and the premiere. Of course there were daily refinements of and experiments with how I made my way from one part to the next. I didn’t want the piece to feel like six separate solos with six beginnings and six endings. I wanted to maintain the sense of six distinct phases, six different perspectives, but also to create a flow from beginning to end that connected everything. I wanted an audience to see that these different perspectives were carried in a single body. This approach mirrors how I’ve worked with the choreographers as performers and collaborators, respecting their individual contributions, valuing their idiosyncrasies but holding them all together in a structure that makes it possible for others to respect and value those differences too.

In retrospect, it is obvious to me that this is how Cure should be and it is that instinct that was at the genesis of the idea for Cure. But having the instinct isn’t the same as being able to articulate it. I’ve tried to keep the choreographers up to date with how I’ve seen Cure evolve and to communicate to them what I thought the outcome of that evolution would be but I didn’t know as they arrived in Dublin to see the piece, if what I described matched their expectatations. I was clear that I wanted to show them the whole piece together before we worked individually on their sections. Elena and Stéphane arrived in Dublin earlier in the week and had a chance to give feedback already but the Friday before the Wednesday premiere was the first time the others saw the whole thing. It was a little daunting to have their six chairs lined up at the front of the studio and also a little strange to see so literally the reversal of our previous positions. But, as I’d trusted, they were very supportive. They had plenty of notes and refinements to offer and we did discuss whether we should try another order but it became clear that the existing version worked. So we didn’t change. It was a great relief that people felt I’d taken on their material and made it my own as a performer without compromising the integrity of their creation.

Though each of the pieces has a distinct movement quality, I was pleased at how readily connections between them offered themselves up.

Cure 12Mikel’s part used blankets and Stéphane’s part a rug so it made sense to me to substitute a blanket for the rug and condense the materials in the piece.
Cure 34

Cure 22Matthew’s section required chairs and Bernadette had mentioned the possibility of including a chair in her part so I proposed a way to do that which wove the chairs further into the choreography. Cure 18Stéphane had created the solo with a latex prosthetic that for practical reasons was difficult to integrate into Cure. However, without having seen Stéphane’s work, Sarah introduced latex in a different form in her contribution. She had hoped to have a lump of concrete in her section but we didn’t find a way in for it. Instead that concrete (a particular lump that was used to smash the back window of Sarah’s car when we rehearsed in Limerick. We had already been discussing concrete as a toxic legacy of Ireland’s housing boom with concrete foundations underneath the withering ghost estates) helped crystalise a moment in Stéphane’s section that needed a material manifestation in the absence of the latex prosthetic.
Cure 02
Elena’s folding choreography found echoes in the folded blankets, chairs and latex across the piece. And beyond the piece. As we filled the bar in Project Arts Centre with the 1000 cranes we had each made as part of her task in preparing me for her choreography in Cure. The multicoloured cranes transformed the industrial feel of the bar in a way that a significant number of people were moved to comment on. Like all such transformations, it took a lot of work to achieve – not just the months of folding by Elena and me to make the cranes – but a group effort to hang and arrange and fire-proof them. It was good to feel that we gave the audience some simple delight as a prelude and coda to the performance.




May 22, 2013

The naked truth about dance


Michael Seaver wrote an article in the Irish Times about nudity/nakedness in dance and asked me to contribute to it alongside Aoife McAtamney and Nina Vallon, and Fitzgerald and Stapleton. The variety of perspectives is instructive: gender plays a part in how nakedness is received, though the different approaches of Aoife and Nina and of Áine and Emma suggests its not just about gender. Reflecting on the article and the work of the artists involved, I think female nudity is more readily commodified (‘lads’ mag’, artistic muse)and can therefore be less remarkable than male nakedness. However, female nakedness is even more challenging than male nudity when it refuses to conform to the conventions of commodification in the way that Fitzgerald and Stapleton definitely enact in their work.

Though he understandably didn’t include all of my responses in the article, Michael asked me some thought-provoking questions. Below are the questions and my responses

1. What has been the impulse to present a nude body onstage in your work? Where did that decision come from?

I wouldn’t say I have an impulse to present nudity on stage. I don’t give much thought to nudity. I don’t give much thought to tendu or
turn either but they’re often in the choreography as a means to an end. Nudity is a tricky notion anyway. You’ll already know Kenneth Clark’s distinction between the (aesthetically acceptable and supposedly not titillating) nude and the rawness of the naked. I think that nakedness emerges in some of my work because I’m not afraid of it. If it seems necessary or useful in the pursuit of a choreographic idea then I’ll follow it. So for example in Tabernacle, Matthew was naked near the beginning of the piece. That material came about because I’d asked the dancers in rehearsal to think about what they wanted to leave behind and Matthew had an idea of shedding skin and he undressed laying out his clothes like shed skin on the ground. I never ask the performers in my work to be naked. They offer it as part of an idea if it makes sense to them. Equally, if I’m performing, as I am in Cure, I’ll offer nakedness if it makes sense to me. So in one section where the intimate relationship between a piece of fabric and my skin is important, it made sense to me to take away all the other barriers – clothes – between me and that fabric. The result is nakedness but it’s not the aim.

2. In what way(s) can nudity be artistically meaningful?

When we were making Mo Mhórchoir Féin for the RTÉ Dance on the Box series, there was some question about how my near nakedness in a church would be received. It was suggested that I wear something else, maybe even a flesh-coloured body suit. Those options made no sense to me since the vulnerability of the naked body was important to the impact of the work, as was its implied sexuality. More importantly, the near-naked body of the male dancer in the church has a central and overwhelmingly authoritative precedent in the space already – the figure on the cross. So in that case, the unclothed body was a necessity. It wouldn’t make sense otherwise.

3. Can you relate nudity to your overall artist vision for Cure?

The physical nakedness in parts of Cure might be related to a willingness to be bare, to be open, to show things as they are rather than hide. I think the choreographers who’ve contributed to the making of Cure all have that impulse to honesty and openness that makes them great performers and artists and they’ve each found ways to reveal and lay bare what they think matters about cure. And in some instances, that laying bare is literal, not because they required it of me, but that their idea was best expressed by being naked.

4. How does it feel different performing nude than clothed?

If the choice is right – the right clothes, the right nakedness – then it’s not where my attention is in the performance. If the clothes or nakedness make me self-conscious then they’re the wrong choice. I performed the solo from Cosán Dearg in the middle of a busy art gallery in Beijing with lots of people taking photos on their mobile phones but the nakedness for the solo was right and so I didn’t feel exposed or vulnerable in that was potentially a weird situation.

5. How soon in your creative process to you think about costume?

The sooner the clothes are integrated the better. (Though I’m not as organised as Raimund Hoghe whom I heard has the dancers costumed before starting rehearsals and I can see how that makes sense) How we move is altered by the textures on our body, the tightness or freedom of a cut, or by the sensitivity of exposed skin. It doesn’t make sense to practise and practise movement material and not practise as sensitively the way that clothing or nakedness impacts on that movement. It’s not that it’s always about selecting clothes that are free: maybe one wants a particular restriction. In Cure, I wear shoes for some parts and that changes my relationship with the floor. It makes some movements easier because the shoe protects my feet but it changes others, like turns. But if executing a perfect turn was the objective then we’d make a different costume choice. For Cure, that’s not the objective! So no last minute trips to Penney’s – the clothes will be as familiar and worn in as the movement.

May 17, 2013

Cure – Dublin Dance Festival – first reviews

‘The lighting design is subtle and effective, and the soundtrack, which is occasionally unsettling, provides the perfect accompaniment to this performance. Fearghus Ó Conchúir is exceptional, a very talented performer….The piece was choreographed by a team of six, and there is a sense of the collaborative effort here. It is profoundly emotional, hopeful and thought-provoking, and is highly recommended.’ Una McMahon, entertainment.ie

‘A sequence of abstract meditations on the theme of recovery, bound together through the still centre that is Ó’Conchúir’s presence on stage, ‘Cure’ is not about the sum of its parts; rather, it’s about bringing attention to how necessary each of those individual, underlying parts are in the construction of a whole.’ Rachel Donnelly, DDF Blog

‘Fearghus Ó Conchúir puts his own eloquent body firmly on the line in this exposing, sometimes moving journey from fall to recovery. We are absorbed by his hugely focused presence and arresting movement, each small gesture carefully controlled, each flexing muscle intimating a small step forwards or even sideways on the road to healing.’ The Irish Times

April 27, 2013

Modul Dance: An interview about Tabernacle

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‘It’s about how you share power? How do I give [the performers] power to be able to make something great? How do I give people who are interested to do some movement, in dance, who want to move so that they understand my idea and take it and go in their own direction? It doesn’t have to all come back to me. And it’s the same with an audience, how do I give them some potential so that they see and respect what I offer but also they feel like they can go somewhere with that?’

Silvia Gonzalez interviewed me about Tabernacle last year for the Numeridanse channel. I thought I should listen to it and I was surprised to hear how much of what I said about it was a preparation for Cure
See the full interview here