Making the most of the freedom of movement

Irish choreographer Liz Roche says audiences are becoming more open to seeing something different, writes Jo Kerrigan.

Liz Roche's 12 Minute Dances have been revived for a show at Cork Opera House.

Liz Roche Company has been presenting contemporary dance on Irish and international stages for 18 years.

Combining stunning physicality, poetic strength and ingeniously intuitive collaborations with other art forms, the company has become a leading light of contemporary dance in
Ireland.

Its pieces have always been provocative and groundbreaking. In 2015 the company premiered Bastard Amber, a co-production between the Abbey Theatre and Dublin Dance Festival.

It was the first time an Irish choreographer had been commissioned to create a full length dance work for the main stage of our national theatre.

In Wrongheaded (2016), Roche took on the highly topical theme of the Eighth Amendment, using the debate to look more widely at questions of patriarchy, and using a specially commissioned poem by Elaine Feeney to emphasise the feelings of repression and desperation that many Irish women feel today when it comes to the choices available to them.

At Cork Opera House on Sept 28, she will bring back 12 Minute Dances, a major revival of the landmark work from 2009 that ensured her standing as one of Ireland’s foremost choreographers.

When we spoke, Roche was in London, working on Woyzeck in Winter at the Barbican (she is very much in demand by directors of major performances in other stage genres).

“Yes, I do like working with operatic and theatrical p roductions — it’s a break away from my concentrated dance, and I get a great deal of stimulus from seeing how those directors work, and seeing how I can merge in with their ideas.”

In 12 Minute Dances, she explains: “We were exploring movement for the sake of movement.

The feeling of getting lost, and the mind going off at a tangent. Then the stories began to emerge: people started to create their own. I wanted to see what would happen when each dancer tried to babble away freely if you like in movement terms, and then see what happens when they reacted to each other.”

For this work, says Roche, she was very much inspired by the paintings of Rothko, those vividly coloured canvases which seem to leap out of the frame at you.

“He himself said that the painting only comes to life in the eyes of the sensitive observer, and it’s the same with these dances. There are so many layers in both. The observer looks, really looks, lets the mind go, and can then see so much in each movement,” says Roche.

She says she often creates pieces that link to visual arts. “We are now starting to get audiences who want to see something different, take a bit of a risk on what they are experiencing.

They can follow a journey in choreography and understand it, which is a great feeling.

“We live in a world that is very fast moving, and our lives are dictated very largely by the media. In watching contemporary dance there is a chance to relax, slow down, watch the movement and interpret for yourself rather than have others telling you what you should think.”

Liz Roche, 12 Minute Dances, Cork Opera House, on Thursday, Sept 28.


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