Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Dublin Dance Festival Puts Beckett Through His Paces

Dublin Dance Festival heralds the return of Emma Martin, whose new production Tundra opens the festival.

"Dance first. Think later. It's the natural order" said Samuel Beckett. Fittingly, the Dublin Dance Festival puts him through his paces in its 10th instalment (running May 20-31), having programmed work from the dramatist as well as contemporary artists both international and local.

Emma Martin Dance promises something "reminiscent of a David Lynch film" with festival-opener Tundra - a new work that explores the darker side of the self and its yearning for transformation and beauty. Martin has proved herself an acute observer of the rigidity and distances of social life, a politeness that her sensational work Dogs took great joy in eviscerating. Expect live music and elemental movement from the country's most exciting choreographer.

It has become clear that Pan Pan's realisations of Samuel Beckett's lesser known works are not to be missed. Director Gavin Quinn now wraps his mind around Quad - a piece for four players, light and percussion - with movement provided by John Scott's Irish Modern Dance Company. Dublin Dance Festival Director Julia Carruthers reckons that Beckett's mysterious square dance requires more than the scope of an actor. Can Scott's dancers solve this mathematical movement sequence?

In addition, the Irish/North American company Arcane Collective visualise Beckett's world with Return to Absence, inspired by images from the trilogy of novels: Molloy, Malone Dies and The Unnamable.

The charming dance drama Swing debuted at last year's Dublin Fringe Festival, with actors Janet Moran and Steve Blount playing two dance students overcoming their nerves, both inside and outside the classroom. Its inclusion here goes to acknowledge just how skilful the performance is in its movement as well. "I would describe this as a duet rather than a two-hander" says Carruther. This former 'Show in a Bag' moves to the Peacock stage.

Comedy dance troupe Ponydance will be mounting their biggest show to date, Ponies Don't Play Football, having received standing ovations at the MAC in Belfast last October. Also, rising choreographer Philip Connaughton explores new territory with Tardigrade (which is the name for a type of water micro-animal).

Headlining the international contingency is Still Current by Russell Maliphant of the distinguished Sadler's Wells dance house. In Maliphant's fascination with the relationship between movement, light and music, he collaborates with the award-winning lighting designer Michael Hulls. This set of works at the Abbey Theatre includes the Olivier-nominated Afterlight - a portrait of the ballet dancer Vasalav Nijinsky. Carruther is proud that Still Current will also tour to Belfast, Limerick and Cork.

Expect to see dancers on the street with the Vienna-based Cie. Willi Dorner's Bodies in Urban Spaces. This moving trail through Dublin casts 20 local dancers to use the human body to illustrate urban architecture.

Hot-stomping Flamenco dancer Sònia Sánchez deals out her frustrations with the form in El Pliegue. Juggling performance Smashed pays homage to Pina Bausch. And L'après - midi d'un Foehn, a hot ticket from last year's Edinburgh Fringe Festival, artfully makes ballet dancers out of plastic bags (!) while twirling to the beautiful composition of the same name by Claude Debussy.

So what will you be seeing?

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