Bringing the body to the big stage
The work of choreographer Liz Roche will feature on both stages at the national theatre in Dublin next month, writes SARA KEATING
The year has only begun but 2013 already looks very exciting from where choreographer Liz Roche is sitting in the bar of the Abbey Theatre, on a wet Thursday afternoon. Her meditative memory piece, Body and Forgetting, will be performed on the stage of the Peacock at the end of January, while she is also working with director Selina Cartmell on a new production of King Lear for the Abbey’s main stage.
The Abbey has always held a particular significance for Roche, who used to come to watch her older sister perform with the Dublin City Ballet at the Peacock when she was child.
“Jenny was just 13 but she was dancing with the big company, in shows like Don Quixote and Les Sylphides. When I think about it now, I don’t actually know how they managed to squeeze everybody on stage, but when you’re only eight you don’t notice things like that and to me there might have been a thousand people watching her.”
Her sister’s passion and early professionalisation had a big impact on the young Roche, who also trained at the Dublin City Ballet’s Blackrock-based school. She was drafted in for their seasonal productions too, dancing in Coppelia at the Olympia when she was in her early teens. “It was all very serious,” she remembers, “the rehearsals, the performances – and we would get off school for months to do it.”
But where her sister was “ballet-mad – she left school at 15 to train abroad – in the end I went the other way. I suppose I saw what she had to go through for ballet, and it was really hard core.
“Contemporary dance was a little bit more democratic. They didn’t want your heart and mind. They just wanted you to be committed.” And Roche could certainly offer commitment; she too left school to train in London at just 15.
“I suppose that probably sounds rather shocking now,” Roche admits, “but that is the age that you really need to throw everything you have into it if you want to be a dancer. When you are young you have that single-minded focus you need for training. You have time to experience a lot more and you can bounce back better, from any injuries or setbacks.”
It must surely have been difficult to be so young and away from home, but Roche says there was never any other expected trajectory for an aspiring dancer. “You always knew that you would have to go away to train,” she explains. “But you also knew that you would be closer to Europe and that is where the work was. When you were young the idea was that you stay abroad but as the years go by, you start to drift home, and then you want to stay home and to be able to make work close to your family and friends.”