Saturday, 8 May 2021

The Metaphors of Movement.

There's always someone dancing at Uillinn West Cork Art Centre. Be it young people coming in for classes, one of our dancers in residence working on their latest ideas, or maybe just myself when no one is looking. The centre has a dance studio upstairs and the floor in that room has hosted a million musical movements since I first walked through the door. I'm no stranger to dancing myself. In the past, I've taken classes in Salsa and Jive and while I'm no Michael Flately, I thoroughly enjoyed my time learning the ins and outs of expressive movement. I was hesitant to take these classes at first but the dancing community that I've experienced in West Cork were nothing if not open and welcoming. That was a number of years ago now so it's been a while since I've had exposure to that world. Since starting work at Uillinn, that has since changed.

Out of the countless styles you can find in the dancing world, I've seen many of them represented at Uillinn in some shape or form. One of the less conventional styles of dancing I encountered was contemporary dance. I was admittedly ignorant of this aspect of dancing at first. I simply didn't understand it. Over time, however, I saw the whole process of these dancers. From practising their movements right up to their final performance. This helped to open my eyes and mind to the beauty of the style. While watching the performance I had a dozen thoughts cross my mind as I tried to contemplate the meaning behind the movements I was seeing in front of me. Elements of grief and loss as two dancers moved from chest to chest until suddenly pushing away from each other and falling to the floor. Thoughts of connection and comfort as dancers crawled along the floor to each other and moved into a cuddle, a fading vulnerability etched onto their faces. Dramatic expressions of joy and excitement as the performers leapt into the air, limbs open and outstretched. After the performance was done I was left amazed at the creativity I had just witnessed and It was on my mind for the rest of the day. A day spent thinking about humans and love and energy and more. I walked away with a newfound appreciation for what contemporary dance can invoke within me and others. During my time at Uillinn, one such group that left me profoundly impressed was Lily Horgan and Charlie Dunn of Meta4 Dance Company.

Lily Horgan & Charlie Dunn

Since their founding in 2018, Meta4 and Uillinn have collaborated on a number of occasions. In 2020, Meta4 worked at Uillinn on their 'Annonymous' project. Meta4 described their goal with this project as an attempt to explore 'The identity of a dancers’ movement, how our identity is preconceived before we dance and how we can break this mould. Despite being in a creative environment where we are encouraged to push boundaries and stereotypes, we still find ourselves being typecast and put in a box depending on our image and dancing image. We will look at how our dancing identity can be shaped by those that are around us, how we conform or learn from others and adapt. Through our work with different groups, we will challenge their preconceptions of us and our preconceptions of them. We will expose them to different ways of expressing themselves and find their natural movement language. We will also learn from the various groups which will develop our movement identity.

This project culminated in a performance outside the front doors of Uillinn where participating community members danced with Meta4 for all of Skibbereen to see. I remember that day fondly as it was wonderful to see the people of Skibbereen exposed to the wonderous performances I had grown to greatly appreciate.

Covid 19 has since turned all of our lives upside down and Meta4 were no different. Obviously, with social distancing, you couldn't dance close to people so Charlie and Lilly had to evolve their company in response. Part of this process has been moving their work online by making video packages, communicating and helping people create from the safety of their own homes. Lilly and Charlie said that 'we've improved as a company because of these challenges and some of the changes we had to make are going to be helpful to us even when the restrictions are over'.

Meta4 firmly believes that dance can be for everyone and they have backed up their beliefs with action. They created a division of their company 'Meta4 Youth' which works with young people with learning disabilities. The dancers have described this as 'not only a place for young people to learn contemporary dance but it is a safe haven to create friendships, to express and explore within themselves and allows them to let go and immerse themselves in the group'.

More recently, Meta4 has once again teamed up with Uillinn to work on their new project 'Confluence'. Part of the inspiration for Confluence was to make a performance that's available for everyone to view, including people who typically can't make it to a theatre for a show. This project is a live streaming performance happening online at 7pm on the 14th of May 2021. After the live stream ends, the recording will be displayed via a projector on the side of the building at Uillinn. This projection will begin at 9pm for anyone interested. Check the links below for further details.

Charlie and Lilly to me are very open-hearted individuals who have a deep care for people. Their ability to help bring people out of themselves and make them feel a part of a whole is amazing to witness. Dance can be a wonderfully human form of expression, and few humans express themselves as wonderfully as Lilly and Charlie from Meta4 Dance.

To keep up to date with Meta4 and with Uillinn West Cork Arts Centre, please follow these links:

Shots from the production of 'Confluence'

Tuesday, 23 March 2021

Kate McElroy: Finding a place for art.

My name is Gavin Buckley. I work as part of the Front of House team at Uillinn West Cork Art Centre. I work with a wonderful group of people at Uillinn and one of those people is Kate McElroy. Recently I got to speak to Kate for a podcast centred around her art practice which you can listen to here. This blog, however, is a deeper look into Kates more recent work as Uillinn’s Public Engagement Assistant.


In her Public Engagement Assistant role, Kate has covered a lot of ground. The job can entail anything from engaging with the public through social media to giving tours around the Art Centre during exhibitions. More recently however Kate's focus has been working with primary and secondary schools around West Cork and providing them with a variety of art packages with the aim of keeping the connection to our arts programme and supporting their art interest by working remotely

To achieve this, Kate collaborated with local artists to create a 'project package' which were sent out to primary schools. These packages typically contained information on a featured artist and an introduction to a project idea. Artists materials were also provided as part of the packages so that the students can try out some of the ideas at home. Before the lockdown, Kate would visit the schools in person to discuss the project ideas but these days she does this through Zoom meetings. Attending online will be Kate, the students, their teacher, and sometimes the featured local artist. From there, everybody can discuss what they saw and give their own outlooks on the subject. I asked Kate how these calls are received by the students.

''They are very open to it. They often come up with fascinating ideas that I wouldn't have thought of before. Their capacity for creativity is brilliant.''

Kate assembling project packages

Once the students have discussed ideas, they are then encouraged to create their own art, usually with some sort of theme or prompt to guide them. For example one of the projects Kate assembled was called 'Postcards of Place'. For this project, packages were sent to three first-year groups from secondary schools in Dunmanway, Schull and Clonakilty. The materials provided were watercolour pencils and watercolour sheets. After the creative discussion, the students were tasked with making a postcard about their area using the watercolour materials. The text on the back of the postcard would have information about the place on the postcard as well as some information about the local artist that inspired the project. 

‘Sensing Place’ a project done in collaboration with three primary schools; St. Joseph’s NS, Clonakilty, Our Lady of Mercy NS Bantry and Scoil Mhuire NS, Schull

‘Sensing Place’ took its starting point from three artists in residence. Pascal Ungerer covers painting. Mary O' Sullivan covers performance and installation. Then Kate herself covers a multi-media approach. Kate then made separate videos featuring the individual artist in their own studio discussing the ins and out of why and how they make their art. Those videos are then sent to the participants to get them familiar with the artists and what they're all about. Kate would then have set up a Zoom meeting to discuss the content of the videos. The idea of Sensing Place is to find somewhere within the participants 5km radius that's important to them and create art about that place. It could be a river, or a building, or a bedroom, or anything in between. Whatever they feel comfortable with. With three artists to take inspiration from, you can imagine the creative spark created within the participants would be strong while at the same time, the art coming back can remain eclectic, open and personal. Some of this work is going up on the Uillinn galleries website until 14 March which you can check out here Having the participants' work eventually end up on the walls of the Art Centre or featured online (as the Centre remains temporarily closed) goes to show Kates commitment to having art be for everybody. Kate has said as much herself. 

''We want people to feel comfortable and know that the Art Centre is always a place for them. Many people grow up thinking art can’t be followed as a profession or that it is exclusive. These projects hopefully show that art is for everybody.''

Some results of the Sensing Place project

Kate is continuing her work with her upcoming project 'Marks of Place' with Transition Year students at Skibbereen Community School. This project features artist Siobhan McDonald. Siobhan's work typically deals with the environment and Kate has said that Siobhan's work ''has a beautiful, atmospheric quality to it.'' Although Marks of Place is still in the processing stage, the idea is to have participants ''look at their place with new eyes'' and then make a landscape piece using unusual materials. Things that they can 'make marks' with essentially. Again, the participants have taken this prompt and have run with it. Kate has said that the participants have come back with ideas for materials such as grass, make-up, flower petals, even tooth-paste. The results of this project should be up on the Uilinn website late this month (March 2021). Some of the students Kate has worked with on this project have commented on their involvement. 

''I really enjoyed doing this project - I particularly liked how it gave me the freedom to experiment with all different kinds of materials and do something a bit different from the kind of artwork that I usually make '

Another student said:

‘A lot of the time when I am doing art I am very focused on detail and making sure everything is perfect. Here I tried to try out new things that I wouldn’t have thought of before, without putting too much thought into detail… I used banana skin for the trunk and Nutella for branches. I used coriander as leaves and toothpaste as clouds.

Examples from Marks of Place

It's clear to me that Kate's role in the Art Centre and the community as a whole is invaluable. She actively gets involved in the community and helps people become comfortable with art. She shows them that it is a worthwhile life to pursue, as she herself is a testament to. 

To keep up to date with Kates work and the West Cork Art Centre, please click on these links:

Exhibitions viewable at:

Students work and information on projects  is regularly posted on our social media channels

Kate artwork is viewable at:

Sunday, 13 December 2020

Dance Season 2020: Isabella Oberländer

Our final Dance Season interview features Isabella Oberländer.

What was it that motivated you to become a dancer?


Through dance, I find space, resonance and community - essential basics of being alive. Through movement, I find opportunities to navigate our worlds, our existence.



How have the recent restrictions affected your process? 


Rapture, Cancel, Pause, Adapt, Postpone…….……Question, Question, Question.


More than anything else over the last months, the continued tread has been about asking questions - the continued surfacing of quandaries and the seeking out of the space where these dilemmas may be worked with.


What is the future of dance as an art-form? 

How does one practice dance during a pandemic? 

Can dance and embodiment help us navigate these times? 

When will…..


Questioning and Dancing - Dancing and Questioning 

I allow the questions bubble up in my dancing and the dance bubble up in my questioning.


Move in the now, stay in the doing.




Keep practising!



In a few words, describe how this latest performance makes you feel when you are performing? Also, is there some feeling you hope to evoke in the people watching? 


‘Glisten’ offers an invitation, an opening into what is already felt but not yet visible. 

What does it take to imagine a realm for multitudes - a speculative future?


And what are your hopes?



For people eager to get started in the dance world, is there any advice you could give them? 


Ever so often - just dance your heart out - even if you end up crying in your kitchen.



If people wanted to check out more of your work, where could they go?


I am currently working on a new homepage, which fingers crossed will be ready in early 2021. In the meantime, you can find me on  to stay in touch. 

Saturday, 12 December 2020

Uillinn Dance Season 2020: Meta4 Dance Company

Our penultimate Dance Season interview features Meta4 Dance Company. 

What was it that motivated you to become a dancer?

Both myself and Lily started dancing at local dance schools from a young age. As far as motivation to become a dancer first and foremost it was a love for the art, but as we grew older it became more about the expression of ourselves, having a way of expressing ourselves physically was essential for us. For us both, dancing was something that we felt we were meant to do, it’s something we just enjoyed on a very basic level and just had a thirst to develop our skills, knowledge and make our own work. As we continue to work, we continue to stay motivated by each other and those around us. It’s important to look at other artists, get inspired but also see things you don’t like and ask why and how would you interrupt something.

How have recent restrictions affected your processes?

Well, they have changed things dramatically but thankfully we already do quite a lot of things that don’t restrict us. We tend to work on a small scale (just the two of us) which means we could still keep working on our own practice. The restrictions and slowing down in pace has allowed us to take a step back and really consider our process a little more and develop work with less time pressure. We have also developed connections with artists over recent times and explored different avenues for our work such as working with Marc Craig, an artist based in London. 

In a few words, describe how this latest performance makes you feel when you are performing it? Also, is there some feeling you hope to evoke in the people watching it?

This latest work was in partnership with a design company that we have worked with in the past, it was a brilliant piece to work with because it was the first thing we were able to do during the pandemic which was outside of the house we were in. It felt very freeing and a relief to perform again, we want people to feel the joy and alleviation we felt while dancing. The work highlights the freedom & fluidity within the building so we hope people resonate with that.

For people eager to get started in the dance world, is there any advice you could give them?

We are still finding our feet in the dance world and think that you are probably always finding your feet in a world that can be quite turbulent. I suppose in our short period of experience we would say that you should take any opportunity you can as you never know what it will lead to. Go and meet people, if you want to work somewhere or with someone, just go and speak to them, if it doesn’t happen first time don’t be put off. Don’t beat yourself up for mistakes, just try to learn from them. Nobody knows everything so don’t be scared to forget stuff, but equally take your time to plan. Measure twice and cut once. It will be hard but if you love it, its worth it.

If people wanted to check out more of your work, where could they go?

People can go to our website or you can check us out on Facebook and Instagram by searching Meta4Dance Company. But equally, just send us a message or email, we like to talk about what we do and meet new people so feel free to just get in touch personally.

Friday, 11 December 2020

Uillinn Dance Season 2020: Mairéad Vaughan

Our featured Dance Season interview for Friday is with Mairéad Vaughan.

What was it that motivated you to become a dancer?

Sitting in school every day from 9 - 3pm, motivated my longing to move and for creative expression. I started to create choreography from a young age. The felt sense of the expression of the movements I created, supported an expression that I'm sure now looking back vented my utter frustration with the sedentary, one dimensional, academically oriented education model that sadly still exists today. 

Dance and choreography offered a form of embodied intelligence that supported me on many levels - creatively, somatically, emotionally and energetically. When I arrived home from school each day, I would turn on loud music and dance. I would feel a total kind of embodied connection with myself, that no other medium ever fulfilled. I am really interested in facilitating a creative dance practice I created called ‘Attuning' within multiple educational, health care and arts environments.

How have recent restrictions affected your processes?

Restrictions have given me lots of space and time to reflect, examine, write and create in new ways. My environmental dance practice supported me to move my work from an indoor (Uillinn studio space) to outdoor spaces which resulted in a short experimental video I created, performed and edited, called 'Attuning: Immersion’. This reflects my practice and directly felt sensation of body-mind-environment as one organising intelligence. I also went online to teach my Attuning classes I call which was very much an experiment with the Zoom platform of facilitation. I collaborated with other artists during this period both directly and indirectly in a variety of ways which I could not have pre-empted. Being an artist really makes you adaptive and responsive which helps during times of crises.

In a few words, describe how this latest performance makes you feel when you are performing it? Also, is there some feeling you hope to evoke in the people watching it?

Present, Timeless, Open, Responsive, Porous, Effemoral, Immersed, Alive, Vibrant and most importantly... fully embodied in (my own) Skin.

I am interested in creating immersive performance environments so that audiences become part of the work rather than stay outside and ‘watch’. The act of ‘watching' is primarily ‘eye orientated and tends to objectify that which is being ’seen'. I invite audiences to use all of their sensory capacity - their ears, smell, touch, taste so that there whole body-mind system is activated. I also invite audiences to walk through the performance space, to sit and experience the work from different areas in space and witness what arises in their own bodies - what is their embodied response beyond primarily ‘seeing’. What sensations, feelings, emotions, energetic expressions arise for them - this to me is being present in ones body fully and staying with one's self, rather than having too many expectations of the other - the performer. The eyes seem to separate but the whole body or embodiment can re-unite and re-connect. 

For people eager to get started in the dance world, is there any advice you could give them?

Treat your body-mind with the utmost respect it deserves. Learn somatically ie through your own direct felt sense of something, rather than merely coping, mimicking or mirroring others. In my direct experience, this is where authenticity, creativity and true expression lie. This is where you find your own place within the sometimes very harsh world of dance. This is where you discover, explore, play to find your own unique individual and idiosyncratic flavour or way of expression.

If people wanted to check out more of your work, where could they go?

To my website:

Thursday, 10 December 2020

Uillinn Dance Season 2020: Tara Brandel

Thursday's Dance Season interview features Tara Brandel. 

What was it that motivated you to become a dancer?

I practically came into the world dancing. I remember wanting to dance since I was 3 years of age. The freedom of growing up in West Cork had a lot to do with it. Running around fields and just generally having space to move was a big help. 

Have recent restrictions affected your processes?#

They have. The big drawback has been having many of my performances cancelled but despite that, I feel lucky to have had the West Cork Arts Centre. While I couldn't perform, it was great to have a space where I could carry on researching and practicing. 

In a few words, describe how this latest performance makes you feel when you are performing it? Also, is there some feeling you hope to evoke in the people watching it?

Ideally, I hope to get people to think. I'd rather them join the dots themselves rather than telling them directly what it's about. In that way, the performance can evoke empathy and create an emotional connection. I'm hoping that any recognition discovered by the viewer can become something profound for them. 

For people eager to get started in the dance world, is there any advice you could give them?

If you really love dancing and it's your passion, don't give up! Let your passion come through. Dancing has become the central joy of my life and I know if I had ever given it up I would have deeply regretted it.

If people wanted to check out more of your work, where could they go?

Wednesday, 9 December 2020

Uillinn Dance Season 2020: Darragh McLoughlin

Wednesday's Dance Season interview features Darragh McLoughlin.

What was it that motivated you to become a dancer?

In my experience dance is one of the purest and most enriching forms of expression. Not in relation to art or meaning, but rather in being able to let go of the confinements of our body. To reach in all directions, to move every atom of ourselves all at once. When does movement become dance? Is the musician dancing behind their instrument? Juggling was my gateway into dance. It is a common trajectory over years of learning juggling to start exploring more and more complex patterns, to more and more complex movements, to using fewer objects, to letting go of the object and daring to move alone. Juggling has been heavily influenced by contemporary dance in the last few decades as it moves past technical virtuoso to an expressive language in itself. Our partner is our object who gives us opportunities to move - as we throw the ball we move to catch it and so the dance begins. It is a difficult step for circus artists to stop hiding behind our objects - but it is an important one. 

How have recent restrictions affected your processes?

The restrictions haven't affected my processes so much as I am used to, and often prefer, practicing alone. Even though the social aspect of meeting and collaborating with other artists has become more complicated - 2020 was also the year I developed my 1st large scale collaborative project. I feel for everyone who has had difficulties in these times, but I've also enjoyed observing people squirm with all this time they so desperately wished for - but now don't know what to do with. This moment in history has allowed more time to dive into ourselves and explore our internal world. Home is, quite literally, where the heart is. 

In a few words, describe how this latest performance makes you feel when you are performing it? Also, is there some feeling you hope to evoke in the people watching it?

The basic premise of my durational work was to balance a stick on my sternum for as long as possible, and when it fell the performance was over. The audience was free to come and go and stay as long as they wanted. Several incredibly talented and diverse musicians accompanied me in half-hour slots with whatever sounds they felt they wanted to 'colour in' my image with. I lasted just shy of four hours.

This work is a very internal experience as I am unable to even glance away for a split second in order to keep the object in balance on my body. Over the duration of the performance I have to do a lot of problem-solving as, sure as rain, problems start to arise. Due to the 'one attempt' nature of the performance, this often adds a lot of anxiety in the beginning as I deal with my own emotions and ego while I struggle to not let the stick fall. In the second hour, I start to weep from lack of blinking and from getting a small amount of light in my eyes, and as I approach the third hour my eyeballs start to become extremely achy from straining a muscle in my eye I never knew existed. My ears open up to the room desperate to hear people's conversations (often about me) - just anything to distract me from the situation I'm in. The more I seek distraction though the more I start to suffer from the prison I put myself in. Sounds from the musicians become central to my experience as my body's balancing movement tends to sync with the rhythms in the room which often brings me to different emotional states - some help, some intensify, but all are welcome. And then amazingly after around three hours comes a great feeling of acceptance and all the pain and anxiety goes to the background of my experience and I start to almost enjoy it. With acceptance, I feel at peace and the prospect of the object falling stops to feel like it will be a failure on my part, but rather just an end. Then eventually that end comes and the sudden lack of movement causes waves of warmth and energy to flow through me.

I was amazed to find so many people still with me in the space - some even stayed the whole duration - enduring with me. I heard from other people's accounts that they both wanted me to continue and wanted me to stop in equal measures. Some people even experienced pain in their own bodies as they responded to my movements. There was also a lot of curiosity as to what my experience was. I could hear throughout the performance things like "I wonder what he's thinking..." or "do you think he's in pain?". There were several moments throughout where the stick almost fell and I could hear a lot of commotion in the room as they responded to it. I guess that meant they were with me! My favourite reaction was a group of people who left around an hour and a half into it only to return at the three and a half hour mark and were hit by the realisation of how they spent their time, and how I spent mine. The experience of time becomes central to my own, and the audience's, experience. 

For people eagerto get started in the dance world, is there any advice you could give them?

Find the pleasure in learning. Don't only take classes or follow mentors but discover on your own. Find things you've never seen before - even if it's been done somewhere else in the world, this act of discovery by yourself is where real learning and growth can be found. When there are no new landmasses left to explore, we must still keep discovering. There is great satisfaction and purpose to be found in the search. 

If people wanted to check out more of your work, where could they go?

They can check out my website (

Facebook page (

or see videos at my Vimeo account (