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 ( 

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