Fringe Dance

Mary Brennan

The Rooster & Partial Memory

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Four Stars

Linger

Four Stars

RED

Four Stars

I Am Rhythm

Four Stars

all shows are at Dance Base

PERHAPS you won’t have time to read the sheet of translated lyrics before The Rooster begins – but within moments, you’ll know what the swaggering, strutting figure on-stage is all about: he’s the cock of the walk, all-powerful and not to be gainsaid...until the next tyrant claims the limelight for his own solo of domineering prowess. The dance, rooted in Palestinian and Lebanese ‘dabke’ folk dance, is rich in eye-catching vigour but it also speaks, with flashes of grim humour in its unsentimental narrative, of circumstances that are harrowingly familiar to the five men of the El-Funoun Dance Troupe. If those printed lyrics put bruised flesh on the agile, defiant bones of the dance, then Partial Memory arrives like a still-open wound. As Ata Khattab slowly moves upstage, towards the back wall, his body enters – and carries – the projected images of a childhood spent in occupied Palestine. His is a solo of absence and loss, of a boyhood haunted by the question ‘where is my father...?’ Regardless of how you view the politics of the region, this double bill has an all-embracing humanity at its heart and in its art – fierce, fine and profoundly memorable.

Years back, Breandan de Gallai was the main man on-stage in Riverdance. Echoes of those days weave through his choreography for Eriu Dance Company however, in Linger, he twists the footwork, and the lure, of that nostalgia into a wise and honest engagement with the nature of identity be it personal, national, cultural or sexual. And there’s no dodging away from the realities of ageing either – his partner in this piece, Nick O’Connell, is clearly younger, with a different kind of spring in his step. In terms of dance, it’s a feast of potent contrasts: alacrity offset by slow-stretching sinuosity, strength tested in vehement counter-balances. Bare feet display the complex articulation of traditional Irish step-dance, but there’s also a subsequently-shod merging of that footwork with the interplay of tango – and in those moments, as in the grainy video footage that comes and goes behind them, de Gallai offers more than just accomplished partnering, he gives grace and passion to gay relationships. As for the age difference – here too there are nuances to ponder: among them, the sense of Ireland itself still caught in a past that haunts all attempts to step away, and into newer, contemporary, dynamics. Add in the sketch artist whose rapid drawings capture moves that are already history before he finishes – just one strand in a spirited delivery of ideas and dance that lingers for all the truest, thought-provoking reasons.

“I am here. You are there.” But the exact locations – in time and in place – of the people Carl Knif refers to in RED (a solo work for his own Finnish-based company) remain something of a shape-shifting enigma. His emphatic text, rhythmic with repetitions, increasingly feels like a desperate, valiant, effort to establish a map of himself. His movements, often rapid and volatile, are like a dowsing rod – or maybe a lightning conductor – that connect him with impulses, though these rarely induce lasting calm. Knif’s performance seethes with a physical turmoil that could be grief, memory loss – or the kind of mental agitation and dysfunction that struggles to cope with everyday stresses. Whatever interpretation you choose to put on it, RED is a gut-wrenching reminder of how dance can communicate what can’t always be put into words, even wild and whirling ones.

For a real feelgood factor and unstinting entertainment, look in on I Am Rhythm. Performed by After Freedom Productions from South Africa, it’s an exuberant cavalcade of dance styles that – along with video footage – traces the country’s culture and history from tribal rituals through the Gumboot stomps (originating in the mining camps) to the infectious hip-sway and hip street- moves that now groove to the beats of modern South Africa. Eight men fill the stage with often hypnotic rhythms – but look out for the flirty dolly-birds who make an unexpected entrance to get their own moves out for the lads!