Dancer Nic Gareiss to get off on right foot in Bantry

Nick Gareiss draws on thedance traditions ofdifferent countries.Picture: Michael Erlewine

Percussive stylist Nic Gareiss will perform at the Masters of Tradition festival, says Colette Sheridan

AMERICAN percussive dancer, Nic Gareiss, will perform at Ceolchoirm, the opening event at the Masters of Tradition festival in Bantry next week. He will be collaborating with Martin Hayes, Dennis Cahill, Thomas Bartlett and Doug Wieselman.

Gareiss, a frequent visitor to Ireland who has a masters in ethnochoreology from the University of Limerick, says that when people attend a traditional music concert, they assume they’ll sit and listen.

“But this kind of music was originally music for dancing, so the goal, for me, is to try and bring the moving human body into the picture and into the performance. I think that’s what will happen in Bantry.”

The Michigan-based artist has a long-standing love affair with audiences in Cork. He has performed at the Baltimore Fiddle Fair and the Festival of Heroes, in honour of Seán Ó Riada, and at the Cork Opera House with the UCC Gamelan Ensemble. He also took part in the Reich Effect, which honoured the American minimalist composer, Steve Reich, in 2011.

“I love working with Martin and Dennis. I’ve worked with Martin in one-on-one contexts, just the fiddle and the dancing. I also appeared with The Gloaming (of which Hayes and Cahill are members) at last year’s Kilkenny Arts Festival.”

Dancer Nic Gareiss to get off on right foot in Bantry

Gareiss, 28, doesn’t have any Irish ancestry, and has been dancing for 20 years. “There is percussive dance all over the world. In Ireland, there’s sean nós dancing and Irish step-dancing. There’s percussive dancing in Spain, which is the flamenco. There’s classical Indian dance, which makes sounds using bare feet and bells. And there’s American-style tap dancing. I use the moniker ‘percussive dance’ to refer to those traditions. I draw on all those different movement practices and I create original work with musicians.”

There are similarities in the various traditions. “They might actually be the same movement, but with different names and maybe different cultural meanings, depending on where the dance is from. In Irish step-dancing, a rally or a treble is known as the shuffle in American dancing.”

Gareiss has been dancing since childhood, because his parents felt he needed more exercise. They set out a few choices for him. “Dance was one of the options. I began taking tap-dancing lessons and, six months later, I started doing American-style traditional dancing, which is known as clogging. I became interested in the space between these two styles. That opened the door for me to the whole world of dancing, including step-dancing from Canada and percussive dance from Ireland.”

He works with an ensemble of musicians called This is How We Fly. Formed in 2010, this contemporary folk band comprises Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh on fiddle, Seán MacEraine on bass clarinet, saxophone and electronics, and Petter Berndalen on drums.

In September, the band will perform at ‘Sounds from a Safe Harbour’, in Cork, a festival curated by The National’s Bryce Dessner. Gareiss says he would love to move to Ireland. “I’d have to figure out how to make it work. It would be nice to be closer to the guys in the band.”

Nic Gareiss will perform at the Maritime Hotel, in Bantry, on Wednesday, August 19, as part of the Masters of Tradition five-day festival. For further info, see www.westcorkmusic.ie


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