Pas de Chat and Last Land
Project, Dublin ****
If past experiences are revealed through our body language, then a dancer’s body is the sum total of thousands of classes, rehearsals and performances. Dancer and choreographer Fiona Quilligan’s distinguished career dates back to the 1980s with Dublin City Ballet, and Pas de Chat is a backward glance at how she is who she is. In particular, she focuses on how past choreographies still inhabit her body as she delves into old dances, texts and costumes.
The poetic Pas de Chat also illustrates her strengths as a choreographer, particularly evident during her years as artistic director of Rubato Ballet: sharp musicality, a strong visual sense and a rich stockpile of literary references. Stories of dance classes at Miss Cat’s studio in Baggot Street are told with Sunday Miscellany-like nostalgia, and with fellow dancer Lucia Kickham she teases these experiences from her muscle memory. Music from two works by Elaine Agnew perfectly reflect the choreography’s whimsy and driving rhythms, while Paula Geraghty’s film captures Quilligan as a ghost-like presence on-screen.
Throughout, there is a conflicting sense of reclaiming the past and also letting it go. This is probably summed up in the beautiful final video projection of Quilligan dancing in an old costume in a leaf-strewn park.
Her memory-driven movements are controlled, but still have a sense of carefree abandonment as if she is dancing them out of her body.
In contrast, Maria Nilsson Waller’s dramatically uneven Last Land draws on the unclaimed territories of Marie Byrd Land in Antarctica and the Bir Tawil desert region between Egypt and Sudan to highlight fast-paced environmental degradation. To the metaphorical backdrop of these terrae nullius, she pitches their timeless geography against contemporary disposable culture and commercialism using large sheets of newsprint that the four dancers use as landscape, elegant dresses and finally shredded waste.