Fearghus Ó Conchúir Choreographer and Dance Artist
September 22, 2020

Bodies and Buildings renewed

When I applied for the Hatch residency at Dance Ireland earlier on this year, I was aware that I wanted to use it as an opportunity to reconnect with parts of my archive – the kinds of things I done in my career already – that might be relevant to where I find myself, where we find ourselves now.  There’s a risk for a ‘mid-career artist’ in looking back – it may seem like you’ve got nothing new to say and so much of our work in a contemporary art form has been about novelty and innovation.  But I’ve grown suspicious of novelty that doesn’t recognise its roots, its connections to lines of enquiry, networks of learning that others (perhaps less recognised) have provided so that this apparent ‘novelty’ can emerge.  There’s something sustainable in this return to the archive, this reworking and repurposing and from the deepening of knowledge that might come from looking again at what one has done.


Today, I started teaching to 3rd Year students at Trinity Laban, solo material that I developed, danced and re-danced through the Bodies and Buildings research that I started in 2007 [The link is to my original blog but all of the material is on this website blog too].  There’s no definitive version of the material, But I trace its origins to a dance I did in Shanghai as I recovered from food poisoning (for all my aspirations to corporeal and conceptual openness, my body didn’t enjoy chicken’s feet) and that I evolved during my time as Artist in Residence for Dublin City Council.  I went back to this performance from outside an office block in the Dublin Docklands to provide the bulk of the material.

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Because no dance text exists apparent from my body and the performance in different places, I taught a movement sequence today as scaffolding for the students to dance the solo.  By ‘scaffolding’ I mean that I taught a clear set of movements for them to follow, and I wanted them to learn these movements accurately in the same way that one would want one’s scaffolding to be strong and secure.  But the scaffolding is not the building.  And the movement sequence is not the performance.  It’s a support that will help them perform the solo live in relationship to the physical, emotional, climatic, social that they find themselves in.  120015299_10157054009276626_4733546702593071783_n

Knowing that the Trinity Laban Dance Faculty is housed in a relatively new prize-winning building designed by architects Herzog and De Meuron and that its construction is part of wider projects of urban development that has transformed the former docklands environment, re-connecting with the original context of the bodies and buildings research in areas of rapid urban change (like the Docklands in Dublin that are now home to headquarters for Google and Facebook and the Irish Financial Services Centre) made sense.  It was also familiar to find the grass amphitheatre in front of the building where we’re doing the work was also the workplace for high vis clad engineers and workers who were sinking bore holes and using a variety of fascinating ‘sculptures’/markers and barriers to define and decorate the space.  Their digging reminded me, as before, that there’s a buried world supporting our existence, a hidden, subterranean network that literally and figuratively has the foundations of what we do in the light and on the surface.

120021141_10157054009101626_4500521222529731428_nI was also reminded of networks of support and influence when Ellen Van Schuylenburch – a teacher of Cunningham technique at Trinity Laban who also taught me when I was a student and whose class I’ve taken frequently since – appeared unexpectedly.  Her presence underlined the physicality that is part of the material I’ve given the young dancers, my own debt to the history and knowledge that Ellen carries and also to wider lines of choreographic work in public space .  Whether it’s Cunningham’s events or street dance battles or Darren Suarez voguing with friends outside Liverpool Catherdral, theres’ a long history of dance’s appearance in and claiming of public space.120005533_10157054009156626_5839261570029148218_n

September 19, 2020

In a studio

For the first time since March, I got to dance in a studio today.  It was still familiar.  And it felt great.


Screenshot_20200918-152318_Video Player I was at Trinity Laban to prepare for teaching some material from my Bodies and Buildings work.  That teaching will happen outside but I took the opportunity to request some studio time to make sure I’d be ready.

20200918_142950_resized  I’ve been asked to teach some of my work because I have this history of dancing outside the studio and the stage.  It wasn’t until I was back at the Trinity Laban building in Creekside that I realised how appropriate that the Bodies and Buildings connection would be.  That dance material and research was developed in areas of rapid urban regenerations – from its initiation in Shanghai where hutong were being cleared in preparation for the Expo, to Dublin’s Docklands, to Beijing and East London before their respective Olympics.  Creekside is another Docklands that’s been transformed by gentrification and redevelopment.

20200918_160404_resizedI don’t know Creekside’s history yet but it encourages me to know that reconnecting to the Bodies and Buildings investigation there will make sense and will extend the research in another place and through a different generation of dancers.20200918_151132_1

September 11, 2020


Understory is a project conceived and realised by dance artists who were aware of how difficult it would be for many people entering the profession at a time when it’s so hard for that community to come together in work, rehearsal or play.  It’s website describes itself:

Understory is for anyone entering the field of dance, including but not limited to; dance graduates, those who are self-taught and people learning outside of normative structures, at whatever stage in life.

A place for informal honest chat from people who work in dance focusing on the times when they had to navigate the unexpected in their career.

A collective act of solidarity from speakers of different backgrounds and on different paths, intended to offer some hope, inspiration, tools and humour whilst exploding the myth of a straightforward path through a dance career.

Understory is artist-led, independent and run voluntarily.

I’ve found it fascinating to read the contributions from a huge range of dance artists at different stages of their careers, some primarily choreographing, others performing and everything in-between.  My contribution is available here

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I responded to the questions we were asked:


What is your name? Where are you now? What do you do?
What was your pathway from study into the professional field of dance?
Tell us about the bit of your journey that’s not mentioned in your bio? What didn’t go quite as planned? How did it feel? How did you navigate it? Did something else come out of this encounter?

If you like, you can follow up with these (we appreciate they can be complex to respond to).

What advice would you give to your graduating self?
What advice would you give to a graduate now?
Share one hope for the future of dance that could come out of 2020?

Knowing that my contribution is part of a diversity of responses makes it easier to acknowledge my idiosyncratic route to dance.  I don’t offer my experience as a definitive guide – but maybe it will give reassurance to someone else who hasn’t followed the most familiar path.

Those that are organising Understory are performing a huge service and putting a huge amount of time into soliciting, editing, captioning, uploading.  They aren’t drawing lots of attention to themselves but we know who you are and applaud you.


August 13, 2020

Annwyl i mi: Passing it on

This week Faye Tan and Camille Giraudeau from NDCWales, are using movements from Annwyl i mi to teach young dancers (between 8 and 17 years of age) in a summer school organised by The Place.  It’s a summer school that would usually happen IRL but, like so much else, is being delivered online this year.  It gives me great pleasure and satisfaction to know that work that originated  in small choices and impulses in one place can have an impact elsewhere in other bodies – in ways that maintain connection to the source but transform it in unanticipated ways.  In this way, Cami and Faye are continuing the process I used to make the work with them and many others.



Annwyl i mi at the Eisteddfod 2019 – Photo Iolo Penri

I’ve spoken a lot about how the Rygbi Project draws on input from a whole community, that it’s something we researched in a variety of bodies and experiences – a range of professional dancers, professional and amateur rugby players and communities of supporters etc.

Photo shoot for the Rygbi Project

Photo shoot for the Rygbi Project

NDCWales visit to Ospreys training

NDCWales visit to Ospreys training

But it’s also something that I was able to facilitate because it resonated in my body too – not just because of my own (limited) experiences of playing rugby but because of how I could recognise something in the way the sport and its physicality makes individual and group bodies.  Owen Sheers’ account in Calon of a place-kicker in any international arena connecting to his home ground and the hours he’s spent practising kicks under the eye of a grandfather or valued coach reminds me of how each performance is saturated with memory, with networks of support concentrated into individual nodes that express a community experience.  I feel that in my own performing and tried to include that in Annwyl i mi:  even if the focus is on team and group, sometimes the weight of performance falls on an individual in that team, alone and supported.

Rehearsals Dancehouse NDCWales

Rehearsals Dancehouse NDCWales

Outdoor rehearsal Bute Park, Cardiff

Outdoor rehearsal Bute Park, Cardiff

So as I think of young people learning movement impulses and material from Annwyl i mi – during this week’s summer school and already from the work of NDCWales Dance Ambassadors and dancers who have led workshops based on the Rygbi Project this past year –   I see a community of experiences concentrated into individual bodies, lived and processed by those bodies – including my own – and passed now to others in an exciting expansion whose impact I won’t ever see.  And though those activities have happened thanks to the work and vision of others, I still see it as part of the choreography of the Rygbi Project – a choreography designed with connection and community in mind, built on collaboration and achieved through the creativity and commitment of others.  I choreograph to ask questions, to invite responses to challenges: seeing the Rygbi Project unfold  teaches me what the answers could be.

Rehearsals Theatr Clwyd

NDCWales R&D Rehearsals at Theatr Clwyd