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The Piece with the Drums: David Bolger’s CoisCéim show is immediate, endearing and subtle

The jazz drummer Conor Guilfoyle’s jittery beats set the dancer Alex O’Neill convulsing around the dance floor


Project Arts Centre, Dublin

“What is the difference between a big pizza and a drummer? A big pizza can feed a family of four.” When the dancer Alex O’Neill begins a stand-up routine of drummer jokes in the middle of CoisCéim’s latest production, the jazz drummer Conor Guilfoyle is the obvious fall guy. He sits silently and takes the jokes on the chin, but as soon as he begins playing, his jittery beats set O’Neill twitching and eventually convulsing around the dance floor, the infectious rhythms impossible to resist.

Whatever about being the butt of jokes to musicians, among dancers Guilfoyle is dominant. Both playful and earnest, he instigates the energy and action onstage.

Together with David Bolger, this work’s director and choreographer, Guilfoyle has avoided the more obvious correspondences between drums and dance, instead creating a rich and constantly morphing interaction between movement and sound. At times dancers and musicians are communicating at a quieter vibrational level rather than matching thuds with stomps.

Choreography ranges between the tiniest nuanced movement to energetic lopping, as Guilfoyle constantly seeks new sonorities on the drums, sometimes sounding out a soft melody or simple swishes of cymbals.


The very opening begins without drums, with a dance solo from Ivonne Kalter, silent but for the rhythms of breath, creak of wood underfoot and screech of skin against floor. At other times Guilfoyle adds just the minimum of support for movement.

Stepping away from the drums, he accompanies the dancer Ghaliah Conroy’s gorgeous singing with gentle taps on the metal-chain curtains that frame the stage, or underpins Justine Cooper’s precarious balances on one foot with soft-headed sticks on a cymbal. A more conventional interaction is a laddish call-and-response duet with Jonathan Mitchell, full of bravado and hold-my-beer energy.

Natural rhythms are also referenced, a lone cymbal passed from dancer to dancer, travelling along the back wall like the progression of the sun across the sky. These details are more obvious with the designer Katie Davenport’s elegant setting, a round-edged wooden stage, with the audience on three sides, warmed by Eamon Fox’s subtle lighting. Excellently cast, The Piece with the Drums is immediate and endearing but also reveals subtle, microscopic connections between music and movement.

Runs at Project Arts Centre, Dublin 2, until Saturday, January 28th

Michael Seaver

Michael Seaver

Michael Seaver, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a dance critic and musician