Lïnger – Interview with Breandán de Gallaí
By Ériu featuring Breandán de Gallaí & Nick O’Connell
ALL IRELAND TOUR | SPRING 2017: Smock Alley – Dublin 6th- 8th March | Derry 14th & 15th March | Galway 16th March | Tralee 18th March | Letterkenny 25th March | Dún Laoghaire 29th March | Ennis 30th March | Belfast 31st March
Find out more about Linger here.
In Linger there are two male dancers. One is youthful, the other more mature. What is the reason for this?
The work is a meditation on ageing, masculinity and the nature of male desire, and consequently an engagement with the essence of identity whether that be personal, societal, cultural or sexual.
One reading of Lïnger can be the passage of time and the person you are at various stages. What would you say to the younger you if you were to encounter them? If you were to go back in time, what would you do differently?
Considerable sections of the show include the deliberate choreographic choice of both performers dancing in unison, which Jane Berg interpreted so brilliantly in reviewing Lïnger at the Edinburgh Fringe:
“This simple contrast of sameness/difference is complex terrain for the subconscious to contemplate whilst being transported by a choreography of breath-taking unison. Teacher, pupil, father, son, lovers, or perhaps the same person, the sensitivity of the work encompasses all these possibilities” (Berg, 2016)
This duality, mentor/apprentice, lovers, the same person at different times, is an important element of Lïnger, and reinforces this aim to conjure a sense of “being neither here nor there” (Heaney, 1998), a division into two states.
What was your thinking in the use of the simultaneous drawing projected on to a screen at the beginning?
Central to the thrust of Lïnger is the notion of identity, constructed and projected. Who we are is awaiting us as we enter the world – an identity chosen and constructed by our parents, the community we arrive into.
A little later I project the life-drawing onto Nick’s body. Lïnger deals with this pandering to the expectation of being versions of ourselves that others are more comfortable with. As Lïnger progresses, whilst indulging this tension and anxiety,we teeter on the knife-edge of becoming our authentic selves, eventually yielding.
The piece exudes a tension throughout. What do you think contributes to this tension?
Creating tension through multiple media was a deliberate theatrical choice.
Lïnger explores, and ultimately rejects, the Freudian tenet that the human is driven towards tension reduction in order to reduce feelings of anxiety. The work suggests that we can instead feel empowered through tension manipulation; by embracing tension and anxiety, this sense of being on the brink, we might feel vital.
This was achieved musically through suspension – a persistent dissonance reluctant to resolve. I chose Vivaldi’s Cum Deterit, which is a wonderful example of suspension, as the musical anchor of the work. Built on this foundation, we specially commissioned traditional pieces written and arranged for quintet by Zoë Conway, and classical, jazz and traditional tracks I chose myself. All elements were then manipulated by sound designer Paddy Mulcahy, creating a soundscape filled with anticipation and yearning.
From a choreographic perspective, the movement was introduced piecemeal, intentionally holding out in delivering fully formed dance pieces, and instead offering only suggestions – unfinished tit-bits, to whet the appetite.
The dancers change costume from for example exercise clothes, to classic tango garb, to summer clothes. What change of atmosphere were you seeking to achieve?
The adding and removing of clothing represents the shedding of identity, followed by renewal, a taking ownership of the self.
The Tango dance sequence, while in form familiar was in execution somehow as if from another existence. How did you achieve this sensation?
Tango is a dance that famously fuses ceremony with desire. Men are often taught by other men, learning to be led first. For me the genre belies many of the tropes of traditional Irish step dancing yet harks back to another time when, in the contexts of set dancing, men in Ireland would partner up. These days one would often encounter a set of women dancing a céilí- or set-dance, but rarely an all-male group.
In my experience, many in the straight community assume that there can be a power imbalance in gay relationships – the top/bottom, active/passive labels that ultimately feed into an assumption of strong/weak. This is not how I understand our relationships. Masculinity to me is a little more complex than this. In Lïnger, as we dance the Tango, we have no dedicated leader – the role flows from one dancer to the other subtly and seamlessly.
Tango is also the climax – the one point where the two men connect physically. Yet in keeping with the Argentinian Tango there is little eye contact, serving the ‘linger’ theme – being on the cusp of utterly ‘giving yourself up’, but not quite.
Have you plans to expand the repertoire for two male dancers?
Not necessarily, but I have been planning on doing an all-male ensemble work for a few years now.