Hip-hop theatre reworking of The Táin myth is an Irish first

Anne O’Donoghue


Anne O’Donoghue

The cast and crew from Limerick and all over the world who are performing in The Tain, which opens in the Milk Market on Sunday, July 20 and runs until July 25. Tickets are available from www.thetain2014.com and also on the door. Picture: Adrian Butler
CU CHULAINN meets hip-hop, sceptical? I was!

CU CHULAINN meets hip-hop, sceptical? I was!

That is until I attended rehearsals of The Táin in Dance Limerick this week, where the cast and crew changed my mind pretty fast.

The City of Culture backed production is a reworking of the Irish folk myth about Queen Medb’s epic battle with Cu Chulainn, but this time it is being re-told through the unique medium of hip-hop theatre.

The story is now told as a collision of hip-hop and dance theatre, and while the production contains no dialogue, the events and relationships in the story are portrayed through dance and expression.

Creative Director Ciarda Tobin, a well known theatre director from Limerick, explained the connection between the dancers movements and the characters from the text.

“It is so physical, look, see Baz (Barry Burke) there standing on one hand, you could imagine Cu Chulainn as a fighter standing on one hand doing his exercises at dawn. So what’s the difference? These guys work out for hours, they have the warrior strength, they are just putting it to creative use.”

When you hear the words hip-hop, you can’t help but think of MTV music videos and twerking. So I was surprised when I walked in the door to see three women effortlessly gliding across the floor.

Two of these dancers are Chris Young-Ginzburg and Michelle Lukmani, professional practitioners from San Francisco, who kindly gave me a crash course education in hip-hop.

Anybody who is familiar with the myth of An Táin knows that the story is centred around battles. Battling is also a fundamental element of hip-hop and this has lent itself well to the story as it is used to portray conflict.

Michelle explains that this fusion of dance is used along with an MC to tell the story in place of dialogue.

“There is balance and a lot of texture, Chris and I bring in the more softer and feminine side, but it is still very strong and powerful, even though our movements are softer.

“Then there’s the more aggressive movement of the boys and there’s contemporary dance as well, so I think it all flows really well 

The dancers in The Táin are from all over the world and according to Chris, are some of the best she’s ever worked with.

“The group of people that we are working with are just moving far beyond the expectations that I had. They have set the bar extremely high, so if we do not work with people who are at that bar or higher in future, I am not doing it.”

Cu Chulainn has laid down his hurl for this performance and put on his dancing shoes. Who knew these old warriors could move so well?

The Táin is funded by City of Culture and runs from Sunday July 20 to Friday July 25 in the Milk Market. The show is one hour long and has no interval. Tickets can be purchased on www.thetain2014.com or on the door, €10 for adults and €5 for children, students and OAPs.