We had the chance to interview Catherine Young about her new work Ultima Thule, which runs in the Firkin Crane, Cork and the Project Arts Centre next month. You can see the results below…
Ultima Thule is an extension of Catherine’s last piece, Woman Stood Regardless, which looked at the experiences of women in situations of domestic violence. Ultima Thule is an extension of this narrative, looking at the creation of identity after such a trauma – asking how one finds their own identity, or soul, in the world today.
ULTIMA THULE (Premiere) – THE JOURNEY HOME
This is described as an extension of your previous work ‘Woman Stood Regardless’. How so?
The work is more a follow on from Woman Stood Regardless rather than an extension. While I was working on Woman Stood Regardless much of the research on the piece led me down different paths of reading as well as bringing up many questions that I began to ask myself. All of the women had been through Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous or other addiction treatments in addition to therapy for their traumas and all of them following this had an unwavering sense of faith, a belief in something larger than themselves that was getting them through it all in addition to a strong sense of community from those groups. Each of the women vowed that without this, they wouldn’t have made it through. It made me question the idea of faith, trusting in something beyond yourself and the importance of community.
In a way I envied what they had, this utter ‘trust’ and a ready-made community there to support them no matter what. It made me question what my own beliefs & support networks were. The research for Woman Stood Regardless also had me reading a lot of Carl Jung which lead me to his seminal work “Liber Novus” (The Red Book), only published for the first time in 2009. It’s essentially Jung’s journey or quest to find his soul – feeling that somewhere along the road of life, he had lost it. The book looks at the ‘spirit of our time’ (the modern world and its values) versus the ‘spirit of the depths’ (the unconscious/the unknown) and has a touch of Faust about it – asking if in our quest for knowledge and our hailing of the ‘rational’, have we perhaps lost touch a little with the unknown, the irrational (the imagination or the divine) and maybe even our connection to nature itself and community.
So these were the jumping off points of research for Ultima Thule – this sense of quest or journey for that unknown thing that we can’t grasp, touch, feel or quantify. It’s also an all female piece again – for a few reasons. Jung saw the soul as being female, Plato saw logic as being a male and its opposite (nature) as being female. In addition to that, some of the research for the work took me on a quest to look at older cultures and rituals and some of the older religious traditions, in particular the mystic sufi dances, all of which were performed by men – so I wanted to try these dances with women. In that sense, it follows on from Woman Stood Regardless, continuing the journey of women on their quest. Ultima Thule looks at the human condition in general, not just the female condition, but maybe it’s looking at this through the eyes of a female – through my eyes?
How do you start out making a new dance piece? Where do you find your inspiration or is it through time spent in rehearsal?
It can be a combination of both depending on the piece. Sometimes you start with a concept, and sometimes you go in to the studio and start moving and ideas come from your unconscious, stuff that’s in the body and needs to get out. With this piece, the idea came from the residual research and questions from Woman Stood Regardless and from there a LOT of reading before ever going into the studio.
Has anything changed for women working in theatre/ dance since the start of the ‘Waking the Feminist’ movement or is it still a work in progress?
Yes change has begun, but we’re just at the start of the journey, there is still a massive amount to be done but the will and the momentum and the focus is there now. The Waking The Feminists movement I think has had massive repercussions and brought attention to that from beyond the theatre world but we need to keep building this awareness.
People are often nervous about visiting modern dance productions. Do you think it’s important to draw new audience members to the theatre?
Absolutely! It’s the only way things are going to grow and change. For me it’s really important to have new audience members there and to continue to reach out to new people. I think it helps for newcomers to have post-show discussions to allow them ask questions and talk a little bit about the work. As contemporary dance can often be non-narrative, it’s helpful for people to hear about other ways of experiencing dance – I think too often people are worried that they won’t ‘understand’ or ‘get’ it, which doesn’t really matter. All that matters is that you experience it, and hopefully have a reaction to it!