Dēmos – Dublin Dance Festival – Review
11th – 13th Nov 2021
Duration – 60 mins (no interval)
Earlier this year, while the theatres and venues around the country were still closed, choreographer Liz Roche and composer David Coonan collaborated on a series of short films called “Dēmos – films of separation and togetherness“. These films were commissioned by the Dublin Dance Festival and the Abbey Theatre. The performance was filmed on the Abbey stage with Crash Ensemble providing the musical accompaniment. This live production is the culmination of this collaboration.
There are three musicians from Crash Ensemble on stage throughout, with Kate Ellis (Cello), Brian Bolger (Guitar) and Alex Petcu (Percussion). The pieces vary in length and style, with the guitar prominent in some pieces and barely audible in others. Coonan studied at Trinity College Dublin with Donnacha Dennehy, graduating in 2011.
The production was inspired by the time in which it was written, with lockdowns and social isolation the order of the day. The title of the piece, Dēmos, is an ancient Greek term meaning a “complex sense of connection between bodies in a shared space”.
The piece starts with a solo male dancer, who appears centre stage and completes a powerful exhibition of movement and dance. He is bare-chested and his powerful frame shows a surprising amount of flexibility, as he tumbles and throws himself to the ground.
As you would expect from a piece that started life as a collection of short films, there is a lot of variation in this work. There are 8 dancers on stage, and they perform en masse, solo and in a variety of smaller groupings. At times, images of the musicians are projected on the back wall of the set. Theatre flats are wheeled into position to create rooms for the dancers to move in and out of. One very impressive sequence shows the dancers in a series of still images. They move into position in darkness and when the light goes up, they’re frozen in a sequence of delicate poses, with expressive hand gestures like a Caravaggio painting.
While there is a lot of variation between the pieces, there are also a number of reoccurring phrases or themes. We see the dancers appear to fall, only to be caught by the others around them, in a display of trust. At other times, those about to catch the dancer pull away, allowing them to fall or tumble to the ground.
The lighting in the piece is quite dramatic, as a number of spotlights are used from the sides and above to illuminate some areas of the stage and plunge others into darkness.
This is a complex and wide-reaching production that is constantly engaging. The fact that it was created as a series of short films means that each segment explores an idea to a natural conclusion and then another is quickly introduced, meaning the production never feels stale. The live musical accompaniment only added to the richness of the experience.
Choreographer & Director Liz Roche
Composer David Coonan
Dancers Justine Cooper, Kévin Coquelard, Lucia Kickham, Yumi Lee, Luke Murphy, Emily Terndrup, Mufutau Yusuf, Glòria Ros Abellana
Musicians (Live) Kate Ellis (Cello), Brian Bolger (Guitar), Alex Petcu (Percussion)
Musicians (Recorded) Larissa O’Grady, Macdara Ó Seireadáin, Barry O’Halpin, Máire Carroll
Musical improvisations for ‘Hand in Hand’ and ‘Landscape(s)’ conceived in collaboration between the composer and musicians Kate Ellis and Brian Bolger
Set & Costume Designer Katie Davenport
Lighting Designer Sinead McKenna
Projections José Miguel Jiménez
Dramaturg Shane O’Reilly
Music Producer & Sound Engineer Adrian Hart
Photographer Steve O’Connor
Production Manager Eamonn Fox
Stage Manager Lisa Krugel
Set Build Theatre Production Services
Band Coordinator Jonathan Pearson