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'