Concert – Project Arts Centre – Dublin Dance Festival – Review
Dublin Dance Festival runs from the 18th – 28th May
For those with a keen interest in traditional Irish fiddle playing, Tommie Potts (1912-1988) was one of the greats. He was a man who loved traditional music but also saw its limitations. He only recorded one album during his life time; ‘The Liffey Banks’ in 1972. There are also a limited number of video recordings of him talking about and performing music. These few brief recordings and images serve as the inspiration behind this new performance.
Although it is part of the Dance Festival, it would be incorrect to describe this as purely dance. This work was created by dancer Colin Dunne, along with director Sinéad Rushe and composer/sound designer Mel Mercier. It is a one man show with Colin on stage for the duration, but there is also another presence, that of Tommie Potts. Along with his music, there are also recordings of his voice which Dunne interacts with and projections of Potts performing. Even in the few brief sections we hear, Potts comes across as a warm and affable character.
Dunne is a well known dancer, with an emphasis on traditional Irish dance. He took over from Michael Flatley after he left Riverdance and toured with them for over three years. His first solo show ‘Out of Time’ premièred in 2008 and explored his personal journey with traditional dance. This new work premièred at Centre National De La Danse in Paris in March of this year.
Sound plays a large part in this production. There are times when Dunne sits on stage, listening to Potts play. These moments serve as intermissions, allowing Dunne to change costumes or footwear. They also allow the audience to focus on the skill and dexterity of Potts. One of the reasons that Dunne was attracted to the work of Potts was the complexity of it. It is not easy to dance to his music as it is quite unorthodox. This serves as the challenge that Dunne takes on.
The stage is nearly barren, other than a piano in one corner and a record player in another. The work of sound designer Mel Mercier can easily be appreciated, as there are times where you get lost in the swirling sounds. There is impressive use of looping and also amplifications of the shuffles and steps Dunne makes on the ground. Lighting Design by Colin Grenfell uses spotlights to emphasise small areas of the stage and plunge the rest into darkness.
Dunne is a talented dancer, but he also talks to the audience, explaining some of the elements of dance. This is a multi-faceted performance that mixes traditional music and dance with many modern techniques. It is a spacious and complex production that is easy to engage with, especially for fans of traditional music or dance. By the end of the production, you feel you know both performers, one on stage and one long since departed.
Photo credit: Maurice Gunning
Created by Colin Dunne in collaboration with Sinéad Rushe & Mel Mercier
Choreography & Performance Colin Dunne
Direction Sinéad Rushe
Sound Design Mel Mercier
Lighting Design Colin Grenfell
Film Design Jeffrey Weeter
Sound Engineer Anthony Hanley
Technical Manager Peter Crudge
Lighting Technician Eoin Winning
Producer Maura O’Keeffe