The Arts Interview: Mary Wycherley

John Rainsford


John Rainsford

The Arts Interview: Mary Wycherley

Born in Skibbereen, West Cork, I moved to Limerick in 2005, following a number of years living and working in Dublin and abroad.

Previously, I completed a BA at University College Cork (UCC), a Diploma in Dance, and then, a Master’s Degree in Contemporary Dance Performance, at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance (IWAMD), based in the University of Limerick (UL). Later, in 2013, I became involved with Dance Limerick, as a member of the Board of Directors. Earlier this year, I was appointed Limerick’s Dance Artist in Residence by the Arts Council and am based at Dance Limerick in this capacity.

My career to date has encompassed live performance, film and installation.

My work doesn’t always fit comfortably into any one category. However, my approach to making work over the years has allowed me to move between art forms. I like that fluidity of interdisciplinary practice. My most recent work In the Bell’s Shadow is a feature film, made in collaboration with choreographer Joan Davis, with music by Jürgen Simpson, scored for the Irish Chamber Orchestra. It was a major work and it is satisfying to see it being screened at festivals and events worldwide now. It took me to places in my process that were new and challenging for me. These places of ‘unknowing’, are a very important part of my work, in terms of generating of new ideas.

Ireland has some very skilled and established practitioners working in full-time dance.

This differs from earlier times when Irish dancers had little choice but to go abroad in order to work and to train. However, the reasons most dance artists travel now are very different and are generally to do with career development, income generation, and the necessity of finding new perspectives and ideas. It is, also, important to stimulate fresh ways of thinking about and creating work. In Ireland we need to focus on instilling a cultural appreciation and practice in contemporary dance from a young age. However, this is more developed and historically integrated into people’s upbringing internationally and, in Ireland, it could contribute positively to a changed landscape in contemporary dance.

‘Light Moves Festival of Screendance’ (2015) forms a large part of my role as Limerick’s Dance Artist in Residence.

Attending festivals abroad, through my work as a dance filmmaker, over the last decade, I have become acutely aware of the potential for a festival of this kind in Ireland. For example, it draws together both national and international artists and audiences interested in the field. We will be showing some 55 works, in all, by 92 artists from 27 countries, including a major new collaboration with ‘Carriageworks’, Australia’s leading multi-disciplinary arts centre. Indeed, we have the European première of their project 24 Frames Per Second, which is a series of films and installations by choreographers, visual artists, performers and filmmakers. These must-see installations are free and will be based at Limerick School of Art and Design (LSAD) in Clare St., while the films will be shown at Dance Limerick.

Our Open Call Submissions encompass a diverse selection of works embracing many dance forms including contemporary, hip-hop and Irish traditional dance.

Light Moves is co-curated by myself and Jürgen Simpson. It is being produced by Dance Limerick and by the Digital Media and Arts Research Centre (DMARC) at UL, with additional support from the IWAMD. The festival is funded by the Arts Council of Ireland and by Limerick City and County Council. We have three feature films showing – The Turin Horse by Béla Tarr, Matthew Barney’s Drawing Restraint 9 and Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina. Each portrays movement and performance in dramatically different ways and are wonderful spectacles to see on the big screen. We, also, have striking works from Rosemary Lee and Nigel Rolfe.

Local artists, whose works have been selected as part of the Open Call, include Lisa Cahill, Angie Smalis, Robin Parmar and Limerick Youth Dance.

Our talks and interviews with guests Nigel Rolfe and Siobhan Davies are certainly not to be missed. We have short film programmes during the day, which is a great way to see what Screendance is all about, and evening feature films. For those interested in training, our Screendance Lab explores questions about creating dance film. Children, also, have an opportunity to delve into the world of making sound for dance film. Whether you are a keen enthusiast (or an eager novice), you can visit the installations, which are free, or join us for a walking tour, to see all of the installations in one trip.

Dance has embraced the possibilities of film from the very beginning of the 20th century.

However, the relatively recent accessibility of new technologies, alongside the opportunities to reach audiences outside of live contexts, has generated an intense interest in Screendance. As a result, there are now many choreographers and performers exploring the possibilities of using film. Limerick was the ideal place to develop Light Moves given the resources and active knowledge base located here. Indeed, my work tends to be collaborative, just last year, working on a project called Starting with T , involving Mary Nunan, Monica Spencer and more than 50 other local women.

There is a strong infrastructure, vibrancy and commitment to dance across all forms and ages in Limerick.

Indeed, the scale of the city allows for a certain intimacy with people while reaching beyond the local. With the resulting curiosity and passion, interesting work will continue to be produced and incubated here. The dance scene must challenge the mainstream and take risks to graft out its own unique approach. Freshness is crucial to all art-making in 
my view!

‘Light Moves Festival of Screendance’ takes place at Dance Limerick, LSAD, and the ICO Building at UL, from 19-22 November inclusive. For details please see: