Fearghus Ó Conchúir Choreographer and Dance Artist
March 21, 2011

Tabernacle: Workshop at Irish World Academy, UL

I’m keen that Tabernacle is the ultimately the kind of structure that can shelter a wide variety of people and a diversity of experiences.  To create that possibility, I’ve arranged to do workshops with different groups of dancers from around Ireland during the creation process.  The groups I’m working with are those with whom I already have a relationship since Open Niche last year though I hope more people will be able to engage with the process too.

Cathy Walsh - photograph by Luke Howlin

At the Irish World Academy at UL, I worked with current and former MA students in Contemporary Dance Performance.  I was also able to invite Mikel to teach warm up but also to absorb some of the spirit and experiences of the workshop that I hope will be carried in to the creation process and the performances of Tabernacle.

Tabernacle at UL

This idea of the dancers as vessels, carrying the experiences of others, is important though I don’t know yet if it’s important that the audience knows that.  Sarah Browne was able to come to rehearsals and we’ve also been discussing the rag trees that one often finds by holy wells in Ireland:  we’ve wondered how it would be for the dancers to be metaphorical rag trees, carrying fragments of other people’s wishes and intentions with them in the work.  I also think of scapegoats.

Mikel and Lisa (photo Luke Howlin)

Mikel and Lisa (photo Luke Howlin)

Using material from Mo Mhórchoir Féin as a stimulus for the dancers’ movement is part of the carrying.  Since I’m not in the piece myself, I’m hoping the dancers can carry something of me with them through the performance.  How will they be faithful?

Asking the dancers to think about religion was initially challenging, challenging for me to find the right way to frame the discussion and challenging for the dancers to release beyond the anxiety and tightening the discussion provoked.  It was good for me to practice that introduction and to realise that beyond the anxiety is plenty of insight and experience that’s valuable to the project.  As well as talking a lot, we also danced a lot and the dancing allowed for a processing of the ideas that talking alone wouldn’t permit or rationality entirely comprehend.  Sometimes blah blah blah doesn’t cut it!

Mikel and Lisa (photo Luke Howlin)

One of the things the dancers noted was how the dancer’s practice follows similar rituals to those of religion – the discipline, the reverence, the ecstasy, the daily practice to approach perfection.

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