Wednesday 25 October 2023

Uillinn Dance Season: Elaine McCague

Detached, film still. Credit: Elaine McCague

What are your impressions of West Cork as a creative place for dance?
West Cork has surpassed my expectations as a creative place for dance, from the support available to dance artists and the range and quality of work being created here by inspiring artists based locally. It has been lovely to connect with the artistic community in West Cork who are so supportive and welcoming.

What was the Inspiration for your work?
In 2020 I moved to rural West Cork and found myself surrounded by detached derelict cottages. The layers of homestead Irishness and left rooms filled with sentimentalities and objects and memories alongside many pairs of eyes uncovered under the dust of time intrigued me to think about these places once called home. As an aerialist, I'm always looking to create new circus apparatus, and look at transferring the circus body, movement and skills from traditional apparatus such as the trapeze and rope onto both the structure and objects found in the domestic space. Through the process of making the short film, and a residency in Uillinn earlier this year to research a range of textiles under tension for new apparatus, the idea to consider specifically the textiles found within the derelict houses became the basis to explore a concept for this new work.

What point did the work go from concept and development to becoming a full work?
The film aspect was completed this time last year and the performance piece is in the final stages of development and rehearsal. This piece will premiere to an audience for the first time at Uillinn Dance Season. The pieces shown in Uillinn are the beginnings of a body of work with the ambition to create a series of ten films, installation and performance pieces responding to these detached rural dwellings.

How has your work evolved by bringing it to West Cork Arts Centre?
Detached the film was chosen to be programmed as part of the Uillinn Dance Season programme and in following a research residency at Uillinn and talking with the programming team the opportunity to present a live performance and installation aspect arose. The team at Uillinn have been hugely supportive and the gallery is a really unique space to present aerial dance.

Has the way you approach the work you are presenting changed from the time of its creation given that the Uillinn is a gallery space?
My interests are to create and work site-specifically and often the space presents itself before I approach the design of the performance. This is exactly what happened with this project and so it has allowed me to develop the piece working with the gallery space in mind.

Book your tickets for Uillinn Dance Season, 2023

Uillinn Dance Season: Alexandre Iseli from Tipperary Dance

Tempo Rubato, Tipperary Dance. Photo: Robert Stuckenberg

 What are your impressions of West Cork as a creative place for dance?

Unfortunately I haven’t had the time yet to travel to West Cork. What I really value is the

initiative to support dance, and to involve a seasoned professional to develop the curation of

the programme. I also value the fact that the architecture of the building was not initially

designed for dance. This means that the curation of the venue cannot be limited to old

fashion values, such as for example a vast stage or an impressive lighting rig. This opens

our eyes on the fact that production values are not the key element to making great art. It

steers the art form into new directions that are for me closer to its true nature. When we

present Tempo Rubato, we will have to give up on our lighting plan, but I have no second

thoughts about this, because it doesn’t define my work.

What was the Inspiration for your work? 

I am always hoping to create this team environment in which people flourish and start to

deploy their own language. So the starting point of the work was the idea to develop

something in which the dancers would have to contribute to and be very strict with the score,

while feeling very free. A combination of rule and individual freedom in which the group can

create something exciting while the individual could continue to shine and not feel restricted.

The title Tempo Rubato make reference to a note that is found on certain music scores: it

gives license to the interpreter to play with tempo, while respecting the score.

What point did the work go from concept and development to becoming a full work?

We had no time for development and concept. I just had 4-5 weeks to create the work, in the

middle of managing our Tipperary Dance programme and festival. That said, I have been a

performer and choreographer for over 25 years now, so I have been developing my own

concepts about the type of work I want to do. For me this has more weight than the specific

topic of the piece. The nature of interactions, the place of the dancers in the process, the

source of movement, where and how movement finds its relevance, how interaction between

dancers creates meaning, these are some of my topics, and they appear in every piece. It is

about the absolute value of the human body, its depth, its sensitivity. We live in a world that

confines the body to be economically efficient, or trained, or aesthetically pleasing.

Instrumentalising the body that way is very limiting. This is not who we really are and it tends

to generate exclusion.

How has your work evolved by bringing it to West Cork Arts Centre?

Like I said we have to adapt for space and lighting. I have no worry about this. It will densify

the piece that already exists. We have to trust dancers. I actually like to put a piece in a

different environment and let the dancers find the ways. They have instinct, their body has

the knowledge and skills to respond if they trust themselves. Instead of being too formal

about this, what we have to do is open our senses, open our eyes, and the body adjusts. It’s

a challenge, it is exciting. I am aware it is not necessarily possible with every piece, but for

Tempo Rubato it is.

Tuesday 24 October 2023

Uillinn Dance Season: Nóra Ní Anluain Fay from NAF Dance

Naf Dance, Credit: Berkey Photography

What are your impressions of West Cork as a creative place for dance?
Initially I wouldn’t have made a direct link between West Cork and dance but the more time I spend there, the more I clearly see the two things intertwining. There is a hunger and an eagerness in the place to see work. This is really highlighted by the crowds that Uillinn can draw in. People that aren’t usually introduced to dance or feel welcome to it, and can bring a whole new lens to the work. West Cork is also home to so many great artists of all mediums such as musicians, writers and visual artists. Anywhere where artists, as a whole, and creativity can thrive leads to other art forms to flourish.

What was the Inspiration for your work?
I have always been infatuated by the idea of growing up, looking forward, looking back, imagining what characters we’ll become at different points of our life and figuring out how we relate to them as time passes. This has continuously come through in many of my pieces. No matter how I try to escape it I always revert back to childhood fantasies and attempt to see the world through a cinematic lens. I believe it captures such a contrasting collection of chaotic emotions from joy, nostalgia, regret, panic, spontaneity, doubt, mania, confusion and so many more that I’m continuously trying to decipher. The act of growing up is such an incredibly personal yet universal experience that I truly find it an endless pool for inspiration.

What point did the work go from concept and development to becoming a full work?
I’ve always been busy with this concept and made two solos around this topic in my third year at Fontys University, the Netherlands. I still wanted to develop it further and ‘You gotta trust the future is gonna be a bit Sexy,’ ended up being my graduation piece from the choreography department. I always had a clear vision of what it could be and as we began to explore in the studio the work stayed quite loyal to the original outline. It was supported by DansBrabant and Panama Pictures in the Netherlands to help it come into fruition and become the piece it is today.

Naf Dance, Credit: Berkey Photography

How has your work evolved by bringing it to West Cork Arts Centre?
Since it premiered in June 2023 as part of ‘Get Out,’ Festival in the Netherlands in the Theater de Nieuwe Vorst it has toured in festivals across Ireland and the Netherlands. But the performance has never been shown in its entirety in Ireland until now for Uillinn Dance Season which makes it a very special moment. I received a DLR Emerging Artist Bursary Award which makes the premiere thankfully possible. It is so lovely to return to Uillinn after being a dance artist in residence here over the summer and be able to bring new work to the audience we are growing in West Cork. The work continuously evolves by bringing it to a new audience which makes it such an enriching experience.

Has the way you approach the work you are presenting changed from the time of its creation given that the Uillinn is a gallery space?
Since its premiere the work has already been adapted to different lengths and spaces such as restaurants, outdoors and different scale theatres. Because of this ever changing setting it has really solidified the core and tone of the work. The essence of what the piece strives to do has never changed but the relationship with the audience is ever evolving. Each setting invites the audience into the world we’re creating in a different way. The fact that we’ll be performing in a gallery setting offers the possibility of it being a more intimate experience with the audience which will only add to the work.

Book your tickets for Uillinn Dance Season, 2023

Interview with Mufutau Yusuf

Mufutau Yusuf initially made a substantial breakthrough in professional dance with a role in David Scott’s Fall and Recover in 2011. Then aged only 18, he had received the call up as a late replacement for one of the dancers who had pulled out. The show was performed in New York City and attracted glowing notices for the young dancer in outlets such as the New York Times, who wrote at the time that it was hard to look elsewhere on that stage.

Since then Yusuf has kept himself busy with pursuing and completing formal dance training in Salzburg alongside working professionally in the US, Ireland and various other parts of Europe and even keeping busy during the pandemic through film projects with the Irish Arts Centre and Centre Culturel Irlandais.

Last month during his residency at the Uillinn I met with the dancer, who also goes by the name Junior, to discuss his journey from Co. Meath, to where he moved from Nigeria at age 9, to the present, where he divides his time between Ireland and Belgium. I also got to ask him about the development of his new dance work-in-progress, currently titled ‘Impasse’ as well as his long term and short term inspirations in his dance career.

Mufutau Yusuf. Image credit: Jean-Nicolas Schoeser

I was interested in how the title ‘Impasse’ related to the themes of representation and misrepresentation- themes that Junior aimed to explore in the work- so I asked about this relation and what inspired the connection. “The very first title I had before ‘Impasse’ was Deep End as in ‘the deep end of a pool,’” he shares, “and the older I got, the more reflective I began to be of my own experiences because I moved to Ireland when I was 9 and growing up I realised that the representation I had was very few and the few that I had were very misleading.”

Junior explains that a lot of the representations of Black experiences available were those coming from the United States, offering an example of hip hop music and videos in his teenage years, which was something that he liked but still felt a sense of disconnect as to whether these images represented his own experience.

“Their Black experience was very specific to the United States and doesn’t reflect on my own Black experience in Ireland,” he notes, “There was a kind of a lack of representation there and then there was misrepresentation in relation to how I observed the way I was perceived growing up, first in the countryside and then in the small town where I went to school.”

His plan is for the piece to be a duet with colleague and fellow dancer, Lucas Katangila, who is a Congolese national who lives in Belgium. His aim is to focus on the multiplicity of the Black experience and the Black diaspora in Europe. “I wanted to understand that better,” he says, “Both personally and in collaboration with others.”

“Lucas had a different experience to me being a Black person in Europe”, he elaborates, “Or talking to people who are second generation, third generation Black Europeans and trying to gather all the experiences and collate them into an understanding of what is that complexity that comes with representation of Black bodies in a Western society.” 

The theme of visibility and invisibility is something else he is focusing on in this work and Junior proposes, “It’s also about trying to navigate the different spaces where we can exist and understanding the tools that we have to represent ourselves- to make ourselves seen. And that’s the other thing that I’m looking at: the idea of visibility, of what is visible and what is made visible and what is invisible and what is made invisible. The aspect of making something visible and of making something invisible is not the same as something that is visible by itself or invisible by itself. So trying to understand how that works and where the power lies.”

In shifting focus from his original title to that of ‘Impasse,’ Junior explains that it can be viewed as when you play a game and there are no more moves left. “That’s how I sometimes felt in periods of my life but also now as an adult where the tools that I have to reflect on those things have evolved somehow,” he says, “and through those reflections I started to see things in new ways and much more nuanced ways regarding my life as a Black person in Ireland but also in Europe because I now live in Brussels.”

Brussels was not Junior’s first European destination, having spent 4 years training in Salzburg, Austria. I asked him if staying and training in Ireland had been an option would he have taken it and he is emphatic that he would have, however, he didn’t think he would have found the education he was seeking here. ”I was looking for a very comprehensive dance education which entails a high level of training but then also a diversity in the kind of information that you got.”

He observes that something that European schools do differently to Irish training centres is that they bring teachers from other countries to teach. “Having an educational system that would bring dance professionals from outside of Ireland and bring them here to teach,” He says, “ that is what I had in Salzburg. All the teachers I had were from all over the world and they were coming there to teach.” He singles out the Irish World Academy at the University of Limerick as one of the most comprehensive dance educations in Ireland and a great school.

I asked Junior if his professional debut caused a shift in his mindset in knowing that he belonged on these stages and his response is casual and pragmatic, “The reviews and performing on a big stage like that in La Mama in New York. It’s a great venue and it was very glamorous somehow but that went side-by-side with what went on in the studio.” 

He credits growing up in a family where creative expression and creativity was encouraged and witnessing his artist father’s creative streak inspired him to tap into his own creativity in molding his own career. “I didn’t have any training before. I got thrown into it somehow and it was probably a very pivotal moment in my trajectory as a dancer.” he reflects, “I think that experience is what reinforced my desire to be a dancer working on such a professional level, and then also working with great artists, understanding how they work and also how they used their body, it really reinforced that desire to be a dancer and when I really thought about seeking out a dance education.”

“It’s a bit like you usually do a dance education and then you have a career after that but I kind of had a bite of a career before the education and I think it pushed me forward.” he muses, recalling that during his training in Salzburg he was still being offered work. “I was involved in The Right Piece, also with John Scott, which was in 2013, and I was in my second year. I had to beg my director to let me do that piece and go to New York again.”

Mufutau Yusuf. Image credit: Jean-Nicolas Schoeser

He viewed the opportunity to break away from his training to take on sporadic work such as this as a privilege, admitting that at times it felt like a lifeline in a way. “It was not an easy four years living in Salzburg where…,” he pauses to look for the right phrasing and then laughs as if there’s just no other way to put it, “…it was not very friendly towards people like me or toward anyone who was not Austrian for that matter.“

Junior counts among his blessings during the four years of dance training in Austria, the beautiful landscapes surrounding him and the incredible nature within it. “Nonetheless spending four years in training requires a strong will”, he says, “You have to have a strong motivation and I think part of the motivation was wanting to work with my body, wanting to be a dancer, but then also working.”

I was also curious about the Observations dance film he did in 2020 with the Irish Arts Centre so I asked Junior if he would have moved toward dance and film naturally or if it was more of a COVID contingency move. He responds that he would most likely have gravitated to it naturally having always had an interest in film. ”I’m a big film head. I watch a lot of arthouse films and I focus a lot on cinematography. It’s a big thing for me,” he shares. 

“Even when I was in school, there was a quarry near my house in Meath and I used to go this quarry. Everyday, usually in the evening, I would walk my dog there and I would just be dancing and I would be filming myself dancing.” he begins, “then I would start placing my phone in different places and trying to make short dance promos.”

On whether the pandemic restrictions brought along more opportunities for him to explore dance and video, Junior feels it might be the case but it was also a welcome and somewhat natural focus. “For sure COVID gave those opportunities and kind of gave me a chance to explore it but naturally I would have shifted into it eventually. I’ve done a few short films with friends where I’ve been in front of the camera but I’ve also been behind the camera as well asking things like, “how does this work?””

Junior says he doesn’t rule out working more with film and video in the future or even combining it with his stage practice seeing as both film and stage contain different creative advantages. “The stage can be unlimited for creativity but in terms of perception it can feel limited because you can only see things in a specific way,” he says, “whereas with a camera you have a wider range of how you can show the audience what you want them to see. And I think I would like to find those possibilities and bring them on stage but also take what you can imagine on stage and bring that onto film as well, see the interplay between the two.”

At Home With Irish Arts Center: "Observations," a Mufutau Yusuf Dance Film

I asked him if he could pick just one piece of film or media that he accessed as a younger person that inspired him to dance, what would that be. Junior is unhesitant and assured in his choice. “There was one. It’s from Eduard Lock from a company called La la la Human Steps. I think they are based in Canada and the piece is called Amelia,” he says, “You can find the full clip on Youtube and it is incredible. I was a teenager and when I was just starting contemporary dance I was watching this video nonstop.” 

I don’t have to ask what it is about Lock’s piece that captured his attention and imagination at a young age because Junior is readily full of praise for it. “The cinematography is just incredible. I still watch it today now and then. It’s a ballet and I am not a ballet dancer but the choreography, the cinematography, the music, the composition, it’s incredible.” he offers, “I don’t know who composed the piece but it is just absolutely phenomenal and I always go back to it.” 

It seems to flow back to the topic of resources and that another type of resource for a young dancer can come in the form of film or online video, “Wanting to be a dancer,” he says, “I had to go online and look for resources and that was one of those resources that made me feel, “Wow this is possible. Imagine making something like this.” I think that kind of added to the whole fantasy of being a dancer.”

‘Artists Are Migrants’: A Nigerian-Irish Dancer’s Multiplicities | New York Times

Q&A with Mufutau Yusuf – Òwe – Dublin Fringe Festival

Thursday 19 October 2023

Uillinn Dance Season: Tara Brandel and Stacey White of Croí Glan

Croí Glan, Unseen. Image by Tomasz Madajczak

Tara Brandel:

What are your impressions of West Cork as a creative place for dance? 

The West Cork Arts Centre has been so incredibly supportive both of my work and of Croí Glan's work over the years. Our collaborations go all the way back to 1998! West Cork is also a very inspiring place to dance in terms of the beauty of the landscape, and because I was born here it feels very deeply like home which I think adds to the pleasure of making choreographic work here.


What was the Inspiration for your work?  

Stacey White is an abstract visual artist who has been working with plankton on and off for over 30 years. When she started talking about working with plankton here and collecting waters from the local seas to see plankton under a microscope, I started thinking about other invisible benevolent and malevolent forces, particularly because it was during the pandemic. I was interested in making an

interdisciplinary show with her that looked at many invisible forces including plankton, which creates

50% of the world's oxygen.


What point did the work go from concept and development to becoming a full work? 

We have been in residence at the Arts Centre all year researching and developing the show. Then we had a Tipperary Dance international residency with Tenerife LAV in June, with a work in progress showing in the La Granja Theatre, which was when we really started to develop the full work.

How has your work evolved by bringing it to West Cork Arts Centre?

I think performing in a white gallery space really inspired the video projection design by Luca Trufferelli. And it also inspired the idea of an installation. There are about 300 of Stacey White's mixed media abstract paintings of plankton on the walls of the gallery as we perform.


Has the way you approach the work you are presenting changed from the time of its creation

given that the Uillinn is a gallery space? 

No the show was always designed for a gallery space because it was created at Uillinn. I think what changed was when we went to La Granja Theatre and realised the show could also tour to theatre spaces.

Stacey White:

Three years ago, Tara and I began working on our collaboration for our performance of Unseen. Between lockdowns and Tara’s illness last year this project kept me going. It is about unseen things in nature both benevolent and malevolent but more and more it has become a piece about love.

I also wanted to add that the support Uillinn Arts Centre has provided over the past few years both in my artist residency and continued space to work last year was absolutely wonderful and truly helped my end of Unseen to become a reality. I am truly grateful to everyone at Uillinn Arts Centre.

Book your tickets for Uillinn Dance Season, 2023