Monday, September 12, 2016

Oona Doherty and Liz Roche Company, 'Hope Hunt' / 'Wrongheaded': In Search of Respect

Gender politics are unabashedly brought to the forefront in this dance double bill.  

Project Arts Centre, Tiger Dublin Fringe Festival
Sep 12-16

A quick review of the dance double bill Hope Hunt by Oonagh Doherty and Wrongheaded by Liz Roche coming up just as soon as I support Chelsea …

When overturning stereotypes, or indeed any expectation, it helps to have an edge. Why enter stage left when you can pull up outside the theatre in a Golf, pumping electronica at the highest volume? Choreographer Oona Doherty lends literal meaning to street dance as she combines slick shuffles with flashes of pain and turmoil, before ushering the audience inside the auditorium.

Doherty’s dance is a breakdown of the disadvantaged male, often cast under suspicion. Redrawn in the choreographer’s sensitive shapes, he expresses himself by coughing up syllables that eventually unroll into phrases of disgust (“I’m sick to the back teeth with you”) and support (“Keep her lit”). Lewd utterances in German and French widen the scope to further afield.

You can’t help but be moved. Choral music fills the room as Doherty combines threatening gestures with the beautiful turns of classical dance. Dismissed lowlifes are elevated to greater heights, in an artist’s demand for their respect.

Appropriately, the second half of this dance double bill looks at the other side of gender politics, specifically women’s frustrations living under the Eighth Amendment. Choreographer Liz Roche imports quite a few devices in this response: a dance film by Mary Wycherley drawing on cavernous scenery and curious metaphors; a poem by Elaine Feeney with some lines explicit to the theme (“Spring is in too much demand here”); and Roche’s own frenetic duet for dancers Justine Cooper and Sarah Cerneaux.

Unfortunately, in following Doherty’s instinctual solo, Roche’s choreography feels rather cerebral, the movements robotic. It’s less coherent a journey, and not wholly satisfying. The clearest intention belongs to lighting designer Sinéad Wallace, whose hexagonal lantern cleverly plays on overhead lights in an operating theatre.

What did everybody else think?

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