Session – Dublin Dance Festival – Review by Frank L
Session – Colin Dunne & Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui – Music by Michael Gallen
Irish Premiere | New Commission – Dublin Dance Festival in partnership with the Abbey Theatre
Performances – May 10th and 11th – Run now finished
Session choreographed and directed by Colin Dunne & Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui
Dunne and Cherkaoui are dancers from different traditions who met at the Dublin Dance Festival and subsequently were commissioned by the Festival to collaborate in creating a new piece.
Dunne, born in Birmingham, of Irish parents, was a child champion Irish dancer who also obtained a BSc in Economics before qualifying as a chartered accountant. He then became a full time Irish dance performer which included being the male principal in Riverdance. Subsequently, there was a change of direction and since the beginning of the new millennium, he has been an innovator in contemporary dance. Cherkaoui is a child of a Moroccan father and a Flemish mother who was brought up in the suburbs of Antwerp. Cherkaoui has choreographed innumerable pieces for various ballet companies in the United States and Europe. He is also a dancer and one of his collaborators was the British sculptor Antony Gormley who said of him that ‘he thinks with his knees and his body in a way that is quite remarkable.’
They then added to the mix composer Michael Gallen who was brought up in the world of Irish traditional music but studied subsequently composition in Paris and ‘is most comfortable meandering at the borders of different musical styles.’ The creative team is completed by Soumik Datta who is a British Indian composer and a virtuoso player of the sarod – a nineteen stringed, fretless instrument with its history emerging from ancient Afghanistan.
Into this eclectic foursome must be added the set design of Filip Peeters, which is strikingly simple, as it consists of approximately 80 or so wooden rods at various angles suspended from a horizontal connecting rod. In the question and answer session after the performance Cherkaoui stated that they were Peeters’ idea of the physical representation of soundwaves.
These various elements are moulded into ninety minutes of absorbing creative endeavour where sound is explored. It starts off in a familiar manner with Dunne, Cherkaoui, Gallen and Datta standing around a microphone and singing a song in harmony. Traditional enough territory even if some of the lyrics would be unusual to hear in genteel circles. Dunne is then left alone on stage and he swings his right leg back and forth. The audience can analyse each swing and how he permits, on occasion, the sole of his shoe to graze the floor so a sound is made. It is simple but engrossing to watch and listen. The scenes then offered by Dunne and Cherkaoui come in rapid sequence where Antony Gormley’s words about Cherkaoui’s knees and body are seen to be spot on.
Cherkaoui also plays with a theremin, an electronic instrument which emits a sound depending on the proximity of a person. His mastering of this device enables him to conduct an intriguing conversation with the sound the instrument emits. As the performance continues he and Dunne perform a series of ‘duets’ one for instance on a very large scarlet couch where a most unusual psychiatric interlude occurs. There is much else besides where they create sequences exemplified by their perfect timing and unique movements.
The diversity of the backgrounds of the four performers makes for a performance of fascinating creativity and ingenuity. It would be a treat to see it a second time. The good news is that it is apparently scheduled to tour in Europe and the States for the next two years or so. If you happen to be in its vicinity do not miss it.