THERE is something about modern, contemporary dance that just does not float this reporter’s boat.
I can appreciate the visual style, the striking lines and the oddly angular shapes that dancers throw, but as an overall form, it often leaves me uncomfortably baffled.
It was surprising then that two dance pieces were the among the chief highlights of the busy five day programme at this year’s UnFringed.
Top of the list was CoisCeim’s ‘dance theatre’ piece, ‘Swimming with my Mother’, a simply sumptuous and stunningly personal piece about the relationship between a mother and her son and their mutual love for swimming and dancing.
Deservedly the winner of Best Production overall, Swimming boasted simple but innovative staging, the production beautifully employing the best aspects of the newly renovated Belltable theatre design. An incredibly atmospheric and moving piece that employed just one spoken line, other than the narration over the dance and faux-swimming performances from David and Madge Bolger: “I’m teaching my mother to dance, but she is teaching me everything”.
The Limerick Dance Triple Bill in the versatile, former Red Cross Hall space at 36 Cecil Street, was a close second to Swimming, a varied three-piece made up of ‘The Melody of Thinking’ by Angie Smalis, ‘Seven Versions of a Song’ by Duncan Molloy and ‘30 Cecil Street’, by Dan Canham. The latter two pieces, in particular, moved the audience immensely; Canham’s audio-visual meets dance history of the Theatre Royal, with interviews and memories of its hey-day, was powerful and unique, Canham managing to represent both performer and audience member with his dance technique. Canham was the standout selection for the Judges’ Special Award for his impressive work.
Equally, Molloy’s ‘Seven Versions’, was, he explained “an experiment”, but an admirable one, for which he won Best Male Performance. Detailing the twisting, emotional dance toward love between two people, dancer Cathy Walsh managed to embody both pursuer and quarry, remaining just beyond the grasp of Molloy’s narrator, her evocative technique representative of the fleeting nature of love.
The immersive nature of UnFringed would be nothing without ‘on-the-edge’ theatre performances, for which Carpet Theatre’s ‘The Blanch’, a wildly irreverent look at the inner workings of a shopping centre, and Uninvited Guests’ ‘Love Letters Straight From Your Heart’, both deserve a mention. The latter, a study of songs and what they mean to people, saw the audience taken to the very core of the performance, with incredible interaction between audience and performer, and was deserving of its award for ‘Spirit of UnFringed’.
The powerful writing and performance of the chilling ‘A Different Animal’ also hugely impressed, ensuring Meadhbh Haiceid is one to keep an eye on.
Local acts Choke Comedy and Bottom Dog also ensured that Limerick was well represented in yet another superb UnFringed programme.