Your Own Man/Mad Notions Luke Murphy – Firkin Crane Studio Theatre – 01/03/2015

A response by Fernando Tunon Hernandez

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I have always wondered why contemporary dance enclosed itself so often in tense seriousness, as if the body could only express conflict and uneasiness, and very rarely have I witnessed pure joy convey through movement and sound. Could it be that the harsh hours spent on rehearsing erase the lightness of being a dancer, or did I miss a memo about what contemporary dance should be.

And then came Luke Murphy, and oh is this boy from Cork!

Luke walked us through a journey between Ireland and the United States, with all the odd stories you can imagine from people expecting you to be Irisher than the shamrock. Luke grabs the mic and turns the Firkin Crane into a stand up comedy club before the physicality takes over while everyone is still in stitches. This is just the start of a roller-caster type of journey where, for once, the audience is the one that remained on their toes from start to finish. Every media under the sun would be used to convey the various moments and feeling of Luke’s experience with blast of explosive dance performance connecting the dots.

Contemporary dance works on the extreme with moments where the audience truly fears for the physical integrity of the bodies on stage. Luke Murphy found marvelous ways to share this accepted fragility of the performer without getting his public tense at any moment, knowing exactly where to stop, where to switch mood and where to vanish. At some stage we see him struggling with a letter to a friend, and the trembling clumsy handwriting he produced was worth a thousand moves.

This boy is funny, touching, sincere and gifted. There’s something about him that would make him a star in Cork, and we truly need to keep him in.

A very clever performance took place on this Sunday night at the Firkin Crane, and that’s an adjective I don’t remmember having ever used before to talk about a show and surely the light design played an important part in it, through a smiling dialogue between technique and body work.

“I am happy” were the closing words of the performer on a short Q & A session following his sharing.

You got all the reason to be, boy!

Fernando Tunon Hernandez

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Luke Murphy at Sheep’s Head. 2015

The Rhythm of Fierce. A Review by Estelle Dumortier

Fierce 72

« The Rhythm of Fierce »
Croí Glan | Fearghus Ó Conchúir
15 February 2015 – 20:00 – Shandon Firkin Crane Cork Ireland

There are many ways of seeing a dance performance.  You can decide to
pay attention to all the details, to grasp the dramaturgical
connections between choreography, music, light, costumes….You can
forego deciding in advance and remain open and almost passively
receptive until something in the piece catches your attention.  I
wasn’t expecting anything in particular from The Rhythm of Fierce, the
new work by Fearghus Ó Conchúir for Croí Glan Integrated Dance
Company, if not the pleasure of rediscovering the characteristic
signature of a choreographer whose work and research I value. While
it’s a piece for four dancers of whom two, from the outset, appear to
have physical disabilities, you quickly realise that the three
wheelchairs on the stage are also moving bodies whose presence is
integral to the choreography.  They impose their presence of metal and
their representation of disability all the more as they are at once
means of transport and also bodies that are inert without human
assistance.  Are the humans or the chairs supports or motors? What is
it that causes the movement?
This evening, while I was a spectator who chose an attitude of passive
receptivity, I experienced what I think we all look for in movement: a
series of internal emotions that lead us to shift our bodies and our
mental images: when all lines of the stage converge on the fingers of
a dancer following the beat of the music;  when a dancer on the ground
lip-synchs perfectly to ‘Love is a battlefield’; when bodies, covered
in a long fabric of gold lamé seem to say: ‘Look at me’; when the
performers’ pleasure in dancing becomes the audience’s desire to
dance; when the performers invite us to move into a space that is now
shared, to a joyful rhythm of participation, of emotion and of dance.

Estelle Dumortier (translated from the original French below)

Fierce 95

« The Rhythm of Fierce »
Croí Glan | Fearghus Ó Conchúir
15 February 2015 – 20:00 – Shandon Firkin Crane Cork Ireland

Il y a plusieurs manières de voir un spectacle de danse. On peut
décider de faire attention à tous les détails afin de saisir les liens
dramaturgiques entre chorégraphie, musique, lumière, costumes… On peut
aussi ne rien décider du tout, rester simplement dans une réceptivité
un peu passive jusqu’à ce que quelque chose nous fasse signe dans la
pièce.
Je n’attendais rien de particulier de « The Rhythm of Fierce », la
nouvelle création de Fearghus Ó Conchúir avec Croí Glan Integrated
Dance Company, sinon le plaisir de retrouver l’écriture de ce
chorégraphe dont j’estime le travail et la recherche. Pièce pour
quatre danseurs dont deux semblant de prime abord avoir des
difficultés de déplacement, on se rend vite compte que les trois
chaises roulantes sur le plateau sont des corps en mouvement dont la
présence ne peut se soustraire à la chorégraphie. Elles imposent
d’autant plus leur présence de métal et de représentation du handicap,
qu’elles sont à la fois instruments de déplacement et corps inertes
sans l’assistance d’un corps humain. Qui d’elle et de lui est le
soutien et le moteur ? Qu’est-ce qui fait mouvement ?
Ce soir, alors que j’étais cette spectatrice à l’attitude un peu
passive, j’ai vécu ce que nous cherchons tous, je crois, à vivre par
le mouvement : une succession d’émotions intérieures qui nous amènent
à bouger corps et représentations. Lorsque toutes les lignes du
plateau convergent sur les quelques doigts d’une danseuse suivant le
rythme de la musique. Lorsque ce danseur au sol chante en un playback
parfaitement synchronisé la chanson « Love is a battlefield ». Lorsque
les corps, recouverts d’un long tissu lamé or, semblent nous dire «
regardez-moi ». Lorsque le plaisir de danser des interprètes s’est
déplacé jusqu’au désir des spectateurs de danser. Lorsqu’ils nous
invitent à déplacer vers cet espace devenu commun, en un rythme joyeux
de partage,  d’émotion et de danse.

Estelle Dumortier
Février 2015

TerrainSkin: Four dimensional flow by Mairéad Vaughan.

A response by Laura Murphy (Cork’s Dancer in Residence at Firkin Crane)

Four black clad persons move about the circular Musgrave Theatre at the Firkin Crane in Cork. One, Dara O’Brien, films the others: choreographer Mairéad Vaughan, visual artists Carolyn Collier and Aoife Desmond. They move and dance, interact with natural objects and sit around and draw. The performers respond to each other in real time.

Meanwhile TerrainSkin is projected in triptych onto a semi-circular wall behind them. The dance film contains moving (in every sense of the word) images from nature. Streams flow, trees sway and hands crush autumnal leaves. Mairéad Vaughan’s dancing links her pre-recorded work to the live performance. The man-made integrates with the natural, moving without distinction.

TerrainSkin’s fourth dimensional flow unfolds with time. The onscreen images develop as the black clad figures interact with their environment, subtly affecting the work as a whole, its space and mood. Painted white branches are placed as softly as Vaughan, Collier and Desmond move about. The sound complements the dance film’s pre-recorded score. TerrainSkin’s palpable atmosphere is nonchalantly improvised.

Vaughan’s TerrainSkin provides audiences with a chance to be with nature in a gallery/theatre setting. There’s something meditative and spiritual about a work that asks only that we sit, spend time and observe.

 

Terrainskin at Firkin Crane

A review by Stephen Darcy Collins of Wunderbar ‘s premier at Firkin Crane

Wunderbar explores whether stability is possible or even desirable in a
relationship. The performance proceeds through distinct phases as original
characters created by Laura Murphy and Rob Heaslip seek equilibrium through
combinations of form and movement. Irene Buckley’s live score accompanies
the couple as they struggle with competing needs for power and
companionship, independence and understanding. Each section builds on the
last and contains the seeds of the next, turning on moments the dancers use
as centres of gravity to spin around, build up speed and shoot off in new
directions. Both performers and audience tumble headlong through the forty
minute piece.
Murphy and Heaslip produce an exceptional physical performance. This is
contemporary dance with the emphasis firmly on “dance.” Music, movement and
lighting combine to create a spectacle, while choreography brings depth and
complexity. Wunderbar offers a contemporary take on personal relationships.
The female lead is plucky and defiant as she is vulnerable. The male is sly
and sensual in pursuit of freedom he may not want.
Although the couple’s relationship is presented in physical terms it is
open to the audience to decide who is really weak or strong, big or small.
Wunderbar suggests that even if stability proves unobtainable in this
relationship the couple’s consolation is self actualisationthrough an ever
changing, ever evolving set of needs and desires that must be and are met
before the end.
The performance begins with a fall and ends on a high, rising through a
graceful arc to explode. Wunderbar lives on in the memory long after its
audience has come crashing back to earth.

Wunderbar Main Image_Clare Keogh

Review of A Dance Concerto by Stephen Darcy Collins

REVIEW: A DANCE CONCERTO
By Stephen Darcy Collins

Four dancers stand stiff and tall at the back of Millennium Hall, enigmatic as the forty cans arranged before them in a grid. For a moment they could be a piece of installation art or one of Clare Keogh’s promotional shots for Laura Murphy’s A Dance Concerto. A scraping sound breaks the spell, repeats and is followed by two bangs at even intervals. The audience arranged round the floor in the shape of a square bracket cranes its collective neck to see Irene Buckley kneel at one of four soundboards paper clipping the corners of the Hall. She pulls a can across the board, then another and bangs them back in place. A dancer enters the grid, bends and twists so her arms swing back and forth like misfiring propellers. As her hands pass the floor she lifts one and then another can, swings and then replaces them in time with Irene Buckley’s score. Tin cans generate A Dance Concerto’s music and movement.
Two more dancers enter the grid and fall into conformity with the music and movement; there’s no room for personality on a production line. After a while they start to innovate, sneaking in little flourishes that foreshadow the invention to come. A syncopated rhythm creeps into the music as the dancers explore their freedom within the confines of the grid. A procession of black-clad figures contrasts the burnished cans; the intergenerational cast succumbs to the beat of a slave ship galley.
An oriental riff introduces an eccentric humorous note. Somehow we failed to notice the first dancer leave the stage. A Dance Concerto plays smoke and mirrors with the audience, distracting them with one detail while developing another. The first dancer returns leading a group of children wiggling cans like jazz hands. Having established the core dancers’ playful fringe the piece goes into full production.
The forty-forth cast member goes unaccredited in the performance notes. Stripped of their labelling the shiny cans are both familiar and unfamiliar, decorative objects and abstract ones. The cast uses them as binoculars, hearing aids and hats; the musicians as percussions, sound boxes and amps, yet we never forget their contents. All cans used in the performance go to Penny Dinners, along with those donated by the audience.
The second section’s soundtrack stays just the right side of fingernails on the blackboard – a “tin-can-abulation,” perhaps. Tin cans are scraped, struck and bowed to create the soundtrack to a party at a steel mill, a “din can”. The jagged squeal emphasizes the dancers’ fluid movement, together and separate as a can and its contents.
The third section mass produces the freedom explored in the second. Dancers fill the stage with hectic movement as if they’d a production deadline to meet. Forty three people work together with the precision engineering of a Swiss watch, their movement housed in the choreography’s shell. The audience could take the piece apart but never put it back together again. A Dance Concerto’s as mysterious as the contents of an unlabelled can.
The cans become bombs as two lines of dancers bank away from each other like airplanes in formation. They remind the audience what industrialization can do when taken to extremes.
When the music stops it’s as though the air had been sucked from the room. The diminishing cast seems to recede into the distance as dancers leave the stage one by one, floating off when the musical chord that anchored them snapped.
Eventually we’re back where we started, with dancer Helga Deasy standing alone windmilling cans. A concerto is an ideal framework within which to explore the tensions and anxieties of mass production, beginning and ending as it does with an individual. Once she’s gone cans lie scattered about shiny and unruly as iron filings, by-products of some unknowable process.
Choreographer Laura Murphy locates the humanity in mass production, and music where others hear noise. A Dance Concerto presents the humble can as never seen before.

THE END

Stephens writing has most recently appeared on thejournal.ie, Krank.ie and threemonkeysonline. His award winning review of The Point At Which It Last Made Sense appears on Finkin Crane’s Dance Voices, and his review of Wunderbar is on the Dublin Dance Festival website.

Here’s a Review of Murder Dance from June 21st at Firkin Crane by Louise Trueheart

My goose bumps subsided as the murderer walked away. I looked at the flowers arranged around me on the stage floor. Was this belt of dying wildflowers meant to protect me from the murderous world I was in or was it an offering for my dead body? The murderer had laid the flowers on the periphery of my seated posture—the way you trace the victim’s position at a crime scene—with the same tenderness as when he undressed an audience member earlier on.

The installation in the foyer (rotting fruit and lukewarm meat on display), clown masks, somber light, hard black sound, and the obvious darkness of the title “Murder Dance” did not eliminate space for softness and humor. Instead, the title and subject allowed for other motifs to transpire. For example, sound clips of puffins sat alongside a foreboding rendition of Frank Sinatra’s My Way in the world created by Donovan, Hindi, and Walsh.

They murdered everything. They murdered the audience, themselves, each other, their own dramaturgical spell, and the public’s critical eye. They murdered trash bags, slit them open, and meticulously arranged their guts throughout the four-hour performance.

The main victim was dance. One reoccurring element was a dance phrase that reminded me of lyrical jazz. It was corny. It was dance-y dance. In a poignant duet, an experienced dancer executed the phrase while another—amateur—dancer murdered it by full-heartedly imitating it a few steps behind. In their separate ways, both performers allowed themselves to be consumed by the drama of the phrase, and in the process they killed themselves as dancers. They made themselves vulnerable to ridicule both for having made such phrase (set to ‘She’s Like The Wind’ from Dirty Dancing), having chosen to perform it in a piece on the performance side of the dance-performance spectrum, and for executing it both very well and very poorly.

This world full of trash, flowers, foliage, and booze absorbed the performers all night, as well as a few audience members who stayed for all three rounds of performance. We were involved. We were taught the infamous lyrical dance phrase by a naked murderer and through it we were given the opportunity to murder dance ourselves.

Murders happen out of passion, pride, and insanity. Dance happens for the same reasons. My mind keeps returning to the obsessive way they arranged the trash. It was so full of intention—but of what? I couldn’t say. Can you read a murderer’s mind? Can you understand dance by watching it?

If we can’t understand dance, then at least we can become a part of it. Murder Dance invites us in and invites us to stay. It does not make us comfortable. It does not apologize. It exposes the underbelly of a craft that is endlessly murdered by makers, viewers, and critics alike. There is beauty to the softness of this underbelly, especially when you slit it open.Murder Dance IMG_3873[3]

Competition winning review By Stephen Darcy Collins for THE POINT AT WHICH IT LAST MADE SENSE

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REVIEW: THE POINT AT WHICH IT LAST MADE SENSE

By Stephen Darcy Collins

 

The performance opens with James O’Shea at the centre of an empty stage, remarkably relaxed in the circumstances. He stays perfectly still, allowing the audience take in his torso, his calm expression and control. A giant pair of eyes projected onto a screen behind him invites us to go stare – a rare opportunity, in today’s world – which draws our attention to the act of looking, while reminding us the mirror is two way. The dancers watch us watching them.

The Point At Which It Last Made Sense is preoccupied with marketing and advertising, and how they relate to bodies. It gives us a chance to stare, and accuses us of wanting more – five bladed razors, coffee and scent. The dancers preen and vogue for imaginary cameras, they pout and mime to recorded voiceovers.

Advertising is presented as dance’s evil twin, through a series of theatrical scenes alternated with dance. The two disciplines have much in common: both are choreographed, both are made for an audience and both feature beautiful people. One, however, creates emptiness and want, the other elevates us above it. The Point At Which It Last Made Sense identifies what advertising has in common with dance, and uses it differently. What’s ugly in one is beautiful in the other.

Both use the technique of repetition. A coffee ad is funny the first time we see it, sombre the second and irritating the third. The piece is unafraid to make us squirm with discomfiture. In contrast, a passage of dance uses repetition to joyous effect, as a series of subtle neck and facial movements make us smile the way snake oil men never can.

The fake advertisements’ voiceovers are cheesy and poorly lip synched, as if the dancers couldn’t be bothered to rehearse. Yet during silent passages of dance, their bodies speak more eloquently than tongues ever could, effortlessly expressive in the absence of narrative.

By deconstructing advertising’s eye rolling artifice, The Point At Which It Last Made Sense reveals its aspirational lifestyle to be as real as a five blade razor. The irony is that James O’Shea and Rosa Vreeling could sell rainwater to the Irish. It’s easy to imagine them in adverts: he has the sculpted torso and good looks of an Adonis, she a model’s sultry allure. By subverting their sales pitch, they remind us that they’re dancers who use artifice, and illusion, to create surprising results.

Towards the end of the performance James O’Shea, a Para Olympian, appears to us as he might if he had legs, courtesy of Vreeling’s bottom half. It’s an uncomfortable moment. Is this what we want to see? Is this what James O’Shea, one of the choreographers, wanted? Is this what advertising does? The climax accuses us of fixating on the dancer’s legs, or their absence, after demonstrating his ability to perform as expressively, as fluidly and fluently as anyone with legs. Whether or not the moment is successful, the image is proof that the choreographers left no price tag unturned in their exploration of commodification.

In the end, The Point At Which It Last Made Sense differs from advertising in its generosity of spirit, compared with the other’s avarice. It forgives our stares, while advertisers exploit them. It challenges and engages us, where snake oils men talk down to us. And it leaves us with something memorable, instead of vacuous and dumb.

The Point At Which It Last Made Sense sells integrity, courage, and dance. The only thing it doesn’t sell is ‘out’.

 

 

 

ENDS