Angry and articulate, dance made big, bold statements in 2016
Culture review 2016: In a year of State-sanctioned Rising celebrations, dance gave strong alternative views
Feargus Ó Conchúir’s “The Casement Project”: valuing the individual and diversity
What were your cultural highlights of 2016?
Angry and articulate, Embodied at the GPO Visitors Centre made a timely statement about women and dance. Created by nine female choreographers, it highlighted continued gender inequality. Betroffenheit, by choreographer Crystal Pite at Dublin Dance Festival, was a dark sprawling masterpiece that lingered in your head long after curtain-down.
Coiscéim Dance Theatre had successful collaborations with Fishamble and Crash Ensemble (Invitation to a Journey, an affectionate portrayal of Eileen Grey), and Anu (the unsettling These Rooms), while Irish Modern Dance Theatre celebrated its silver anniversary with Precious Metal. Elsewhere, Ingrid Nachstern’s dance film Freedom to Go! won awards at film festivals in Brooklyn and California
Ballet highlights were Alonzo King Lines Ballet’s Shostakovich and Rasa, as well as the continuing success of Irish choreographer Marguerite Donlon. Her Strokes Through the Tail was performed at the Bolshoi Theatre by Svetlana Zakharova.
Music listening meant regular reconnections with old albums as one legend after another died. Political nihilism had me wallowing in Anohi’s Hopelessness but finding solace in recordings of Henze’s Being Beauteous by NDR Sinfonieorchester and David Lang’s the national anthems.
In the late-to-the-game category, Mary Norris’ book Confessions of a Comma Queen satisfied grammar nerdiness, while hidden design was revealed in the podcast 99% Invisible.
And what let you down?
Stranger Things: the kids were charming, but playing spot-the-’80s references is no substitute for plot.
What was the dominant plot twist of 2016?
A growing awareness of the history of Irish contemporary dance has spawned publications, but Live Archive physically recreated 30-year-old works by Dublin Contemporary Dance Theatre. A first step in rediscovering classic works and establishing a dance repertory.
Was it for that? How did our centenary celebrations strike you?
Many were wowed by the State-sanctioned choreography of military rectangles marching down O’Connell Street: anonymous bodies expressing homogeneity. Dancers instead valued the individual and diversity, and highlighted how State and society have repressed and prejudiced the body. Most notable were These Rooms, Embodied and Feargus Ó Conchúir’s The Casement Project.
And 2016 in three words?
So many died.