Dance

Interview with Dublin Dance Festival’s Artistic Director Benjamin Perchet

Dublin Dance Festival’s Artistic Director Benjamin Perchet talks about this year’s festival, running from the 1st to the 19th of May in Dublin venues.

Dublin Dance Festival – May 1st to 19th

You have been the director for the festival for a number of years. What are the main changes you have made to the festival since you started?

I’m particularly happy and proud we’ve managed to maintain, and even strengthen a number of collaborations with loyal cultural partners. We revitalised some collaborations with a shared enjoyment of dance with the Abbey Theatre, Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, The Ark and IMMA, just to name a few. We’ve also forged new collaborations with other arts organisations to shake things up and shift expectations: with the Science Gallery, National Gallery of Ireland, Hugh Lane Gallery, The Digital Hub… With a firm belief that loving dance in all its expressions, as well as all the other art forms, is all about loving its artists, we have been giving people more exciting opportunities to get to know Irish and international dance artists. This strategy undeniably encourages engagement and welcomes first-time and new audiences to dance.

Irish audiences are often considered to have more interest in text than dance/ movement. Has there been any progress in this regard? Are Irish people slowing getting more interested in dance?

Surely, and not slowly! Each year, Dublin Dance Festival amplifies the importance and the relevance of dance in Ireland. Since the inauguration of the festival in 2002, its audience has grown steadily. If Irish audiences are erudite and sophisticated in the field of theatre, literature and poetry indeed, my intuition is it also drives their curiosity and high demands with other art forms. Our festival never underestimates its audience, instead we deliver a programme that is intriguing, exciting and in some instances demanding as a sign of respect.

Many people would consider Riot (May 1st to 4th) more Cabaret than Dance. Why did you think it was an obvious choice for the festival?

RIOT is way more than a cabaret. It is sincerely one the best multidisciplinary productions with a social conscience I’ve seen recently, not in Ireland only but worldwide. Although not exclusively dedicated to dance, everything in RIOT is about choreography, body and movement. Heart-breaking spoken words, aerial acrobatics, music and songs, strip tease and stand-up comedy. At Dublin Dance Festival, we enjoy contrasts, so it is glorious to open the festival with RIOT starring the Queen of Ireland Panti, and closing with master of Belgian contemporary dance Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker. When we made the decision with Thisispopbaby’s co-directors and creators of the show, Jenny Jennings and Philly MacMahon, to bring the show back to Vicar Street this year, I was thrilled. And convinced that RIOT would be the best kickstarter ever for the 15th Edition’s programme, which aims to give audiences space for both spectacle and reflection, sensuality and seriousness.

Is there anything you’d recommend to someone who wanted to experiment with seeing a Dance production? 

2019 marks renowned Liz Roche Company’s third year in residence with the festival. This sustained period has been very inspiring for everyone. As part of this year’s festival, we will welcome the Dublin premiere of beautifully compelling and critically acclaimed I / Thou by Liz Roche and co-collaborator and composer Linda Buckley, at the Samuel Beckett Theatre. This exquisite exploration of human connection with live music, dance and song was created last autumn at Cork Opera House in response to a series of wall paintings by iconic visual artist Brian O’Doherty. It is poignant and captivating.

What international pieces are you particularly excited about?

The Abbey Theatre will be home to pioneers from the dance world, artists revered for their craft and their drive for innovation. An international piece while also being distinctly Irish, Session is one of the most original collaborations today between Colin Dunne & Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, co-commissioned by the festival and the Abbey Theatre. Hugely anticipated, Session will see leading Irish dance artist Colin Dunne perform with Olivier Award-winning Flemish-Moroccan choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, renowned for his collaborations with some of the world’s greatest dance artists.  In this unique exploration of movement and sound, which just premiered in France this February, these two performers draw on the rich rhythmical and sonic aspects of Dunne’s traditional Irish dance, joined on stage by composer Michael Gallen and musician Soumik Datta.

What will you do when this year’s festival finishes?

This year, the festival will be running through 3 weeks – it’s an intense and exhilarating period of time for everyone.  When the 2019 Festival comes to an end, it will be time for the full Festival team to take a bit of a step back, assess and appreciate the whole range of events which will have just happened.  The summer will also be a time to keep our heads cool as we progress with all the details of the 2020 programme. I’ll also be seeing more works, networking and continuing to spread the word about Dublin Dance Festival in France, Portugal, the Netherlands, Ireland, Italy, Greece… But before we get stuck in to 2020 planning, there will be a moment to enjoy what we’ve achieved and celebrate together – perhaps over a glass of something bubbly as we enjoy the long summer evenings in Dublin.

Dublin Dance Festival runs 1-19 May.  For more information see: https://www.dublindancefestival.ie/

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