Liz Roche Company/ Wrongheaded
We had the chance to talk to Choreographer (and Artistic Director) Liz Roche ahead of the opening of Wrongheaded in the Tiger Dublin Fringe. It’s a new piece that brings together dance, film and spoken word poetry, and aims to be a dancing body’s response to the 8th amendment.
Preview Sep 11 @ 19:00
Dates Sep 12 – 16 @ 19:00
Venue: Project Arts Centre Cube
People in Ireland seem hugely frustrated by the slow movement of the government in relation to the 8th amendment. Do you share this frustration?
Many women living in Ireland today find themselves in emotional and physical distress as a result of the enforcement of this amendment. How could I not be moved by this?
How do you start to tackle such a difficult topic through dance?
Wrongheaded is exploring the desperation and frustration that many Irish women feel in relation to the choices available to them around their bodies. The current call for repeal of the 8th amendment is one factor in that, but the piece is also looking at these raw emotions in a more general way.
Dance is the base line of this project but as the subject material we are looking at is a very personal and difficult one, I wanted to try and present the view from more than one perspective. To achieve this I have undertaken an integration of; a new specially written poem by Elaine Feeney that the audience will hear during the show; a new film directed by Mary Wycherley which is an ‘abstracted’ response to the matter at hand, and the movement material I have made with the dancers.
In Elaine’s poem she wanted feeling states of repression and claustrophobia as a tone and the lack of choice, frustration and panic women feel to be very much part of the core of the piece. She wrote it in a series of fragmented voices from different positions, bordering on surreal conversations that teeter in and out of reality. There is no real linear narrative, as the stories are so entwined, merging together into an overarching tone. From this, the dance then becomes a way of freeing the bodies from this written intensity.
To generate the movement, as a group we shared personal stories, read different accounts of women having to travel to Britain for a termination, for whatever reason, and the distress of the experience itself, the journey home, the often traumatically surreal situations they found themselves in; for example, having to find a way to bring the remains home, and many other terrible realities that they faced. With the dancers we work through a process where they embody the emotions, filtering my ideas and mixing in their own experiences, alongside our shared imaginings of situations we haven’t had first hand experience of.
The piece involves the talents of poet Elaine Feeny and film director Mary Wycherley. How are you combining the three different strands? Are you working independently or who is controlling the vision?
Liz Roche Company commissioned the poem element of the piece from Elaine which she wrote and recorded in March. We are in the process of filming the film element of the piece and Mary is directing that – again, the film is a result of many conversations and sharing of ideas and experiences, and from that Mary brings her own eye and energy to the subject matter in the creation of the film. Eventually, all strands are filtered through me and I will put it together for our performances in Dublin. I wanted Wrongheaded to be able to exist as a live performance in front of an audience in the theatre, but I also see the poem and the film independent of that and of each other. The filming process sheds new light on the choreographic process so each process complements the other. I am also working with the wonderful lighting designer Sinead Wallace, who brings yet another layer to the process and the performance.
How many hours a day would you work with the dancers in the run up to the start of a new production?
Normally, we work from 10am – 6pm Monday to Saturday – not always Saturdays but often.
Is there a limit to how much rehearsal a dancer can do?
Everyone gets tired but you push through it and at this stage in our careers, we know when to pull back and rest if rest is really needed. These particular rehearsals are intense as there are only two dancers and for many reasons we have time constraints, so the pressure is on.
Do you think it’s important for dance productions to have strong narratives behind them?
To be honest, I don’t think a strong narrative is necessary at all. It really depends – some subjects that you may be exploring really need it and others just don’t. I think many contemporary dance makers are under a lot of pressure to offer a strong narrative but there are so many celebrated choreographers that have liberated themselves from this pressure and their work still communicates in a most profound way to their audiences. I think choreographers have to be brave, but for it to work, audiences have to try and meet them as best as they can.
You have had an exciting year, having recently worked in the GPO. Was it the most unusual location in which one of your productions was performed?
Embodied at the GPO Witness History Museum was a great project and the Dublin Dance Festival and An Post were really supportive in making sure that it happened in the best way possible. I think the location was more special than unusual, we all felt very lucky to have the opportunity to be part of something so significant and brave. I’m trying to think of unusual locations…….. in 2006 we built an enclosed garden on Georges Dock down at the IFSC and performed a dance piece in there – that was a bit out of the ordinary!
What are your plans for the future? Any new things you are working on?
The rest of the year is busy, which is great. As well as the Tiger Dublin Fringe Festival performances, Wrongheaded will also show at Tanzmesse in Dusseldorf, Tipperary Dance Festival and Dance Limerick. After that we are touring our 2015 production Bastard Amber to the Town Hall Theatre Galway on November 15th, Lyric Theatre Belfast on November 18th, An Grianán Theatre Letterkenny on November 29th and Lime Tree Theatre in Limerick on December 2nd.
Bastard Amber is a big production for us, with a cast of eight Irish and international dancers performing alongside four brilliant musicians from traditional, rock and classical backgrounds, an exceptional set, lighting and costume design from celebrated designers Paul Wills, Lee Curran and Catherine Fay and a specially commissioned score by composer Ray Harman. Following on from the Abbey performances in 2015, Bastard Amber went on to perform at the Kilkenny Arts Festival and also at the prestigious Espace des Arts, Chalon-Sur-Saone, France, as part of Festival Instances 2015 so we’re really delighted to get the opportunity to bring the piece back to Irish audiences again. I will also be working as movement director on the Abbey Theatre’s production of Anna Karenina, so that will take me up to Christmas, and then there are always the plans for next year…always lots of plans and ideas!