Smart move: dance gets intellectual in Galway

Feminism, genetics, marine science, anti-capitalism: Galway Dance Days proves that dance artists can be intellectual equals to the sciences and humanities

Wed, Mar 26, 2014, 01:00

Dancing to effect change
This year’s themes – activism, feminism and environment – reflect issues that Ní Néill believes are exercising dance artists.

“We are in a time of turmoil, old solutions don’t work, and it feels like dancers are asking questions, getting involved directly with social issues and making dance to effect change,” she says. “Some of those in the forefront of this are women, and in Ireland there is a blossoming of female choreographers who are not afraid to call themselves feminists, to tackle taboos, and who are presenting more nuanced and diverse stories of and by women. I think they are changing our aesthetics, bringing an unapologetic, raw and often autobiographical honesty to dance.”

Choreographer Emma Martin and artist Michelle Browne are collaborating on My Methyl , based on their personal experiences of motherhood and on research on genetic material that asserts that a mother’s behaviour can alter the genetic function of their offspring. Ella Clarke has been working with young people from disadvantaged areas on a street performance called Riot Choreography , while Deirdre Murphy’s Anti-Capitalism: The Musical takes a swipe at unchanging social and political conventions.

“It was really exciting to discover emerging female choreographers, some straight out of college, as well as celebrating the continuation of female choreographers working into maturity,” says Ní Néill.

Symposium element
There’s a similarly diverse mix to the speakers and topics at the Corp_Real Symposium, from Embodying the Morals of Magdalen Ireland, 1922-1996 to a discussion with Carola Wingren, professor in landscape architecture at the University of Sweden. Wingren collaborated with Ní Néill on a Swedish-government-funded research project on designing for possible sea-level rises, which involved landscape architects, geographers and environmental experts.

“She was aware of the contribution dance could make and of how dance could directly engage the public in facing these possible threats. I was joking that, through the dance performance, I was softening up the public before science hit them hard.”

Galway Dance Days shows that dance artists can be intellectual equals to the sciences and humanities. The Cartesian duality of the thinking mind versus the feeling body has been dispelled as kinaesthetic intelligence receives rightful recognition, changing perceptions in academia and with the general public. “I think audiences don’t just want to be entertained, but to think, and be challenged,” says Ní Néill. “If you invite them into your process, they are happy to take risks with you.”

Galway Dance Days runs from Friday to Sunday.

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