Liz Roche's Sailing to Byzantium-inspired Bastard Amber marks the first commission of an Irish choreographer for the Abbey stage.
Dublin Dance Festival has an extra skip in its step. Last year's festival saw an increase in audience attendance by 57%, due in large part to festival director Julia Carruthers’s commitment to outdoor and free events. In what is possibly her final year in the role (a call for applicants went out in January), she has managed to secure the Abbey Theatre for the duration of the event, as well as the historic first commission of an Irish choreographer for the theatre’s main stage.
Tales of Yeats and dance at the Abbey go back nearly a century but the theatre resigned the playwright many years ago, dissipating his plays into museum pieces, granting “the artifice of eternity” yearned for in the shamanistic lines of Sailing to Byzantium. Choreographer Liz Roche may be the one to finally revive his spirit in this significant commission. Inspired by Yeats’s poem and the golden paintings of Patrick Scott, Bastard Amber promises a profound journey into humankind’s spiritual quest, summoning a Byzantine on the convergence of East and West.
Dance and theatre artists have spelled out neither art form as mutually exclusive. WillFredd is one such theatre company who have given primacy to gesture in their productions (FOLLOW, FARM, CARE), thanks to insight from balletic choreographer Emma O’Kane. From their engagements with the horseracing community comes a new performance exploring the physical relationship between the dancer, the jockey and the Irish thoroughbred horse. Jockey (pictured below) stars O’Kane, whose grandfather Philip de Burgh was a bloodstock agent and a racing journalist.
Promotional art for Jockey.
Another Irish dancer featured is Aoife McAtamney. Caos Ensemble takes its title from the “pop up” orchestra of the same name whom, under Nick Roth’s conduction, will create a piece of music for McAtamney to interpret on the day of performance.
As well as elevating Irish artists to prime slots in the festival, Carruthers is proud to present Swiss dancer Thomas Hauert’s new solo (sweet) (bitter), a response to Monteverdi’s poem of impossible love: Si dolce è’l tormento; Flamenco superstar Israel Galván; and the lauded Built to Last by Brussels-based Meg Stuart, also for the Abbey stage, which promises chic design and a stunning retrospective of classical and contemporary music that has influenced history.
Other highlights include the dance for young audiences Elephant Walk by Célestine Hennerman, dramaturg to acclaimed choreographer William Forsythe; 35 cherries meeting their sticky end as hapless victims in the macabre Death is certain by German performance artist Eva Meyer-Keller; a piece testing the flow of kinetic energy by Robbie Synge, great-nephew of John Millington; and suspected surprise hit Blanca combining compelling choreography with cutting edge jazz for an epic journey inspired by Scandinavia’s indigenous people, the Sami.
Dublin Dance Festival runs May 19-30. For more information see dancefestival.ie.