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Alternately Terrific and Gentle

December 13th — 20th, 2020
Photo by José Miguel Jimenéz

Photo by José Miguel Jimenéz


12 collaborating artists in 7 countries working together in this dance transmission project inspired by moving bodies connected by friendship, history and coincidence.

Taking a different approach to making dance in collaboration with Irish and International artists, Liz Roche, Jodi Melnick and Jenny Roche created a new dance trio and passed the creative baton on to a further group of collaborating artists who individually interpreted the piece, bringing their own distinctive creative voices to the shared movement material.

Inspired by an array of texts, music, letters and visual art - the title is taken from a love letter from composer John Cage to choreographer Merce Cunningham where he describes the intensity of rain one afternoon as “alternately terrific and gentle” and declares to want to “measure my breath in relation to the air between us”, passing through Leonard Cohen’s writing on how to speak poetry - “Speak the words, convey the data.... Respect the privacy of the material” and Bob Dylan’s protest song A Hard Rain’s a Gonna Fall, to visual artist Dorothy Cross, who working in sculpture, film and photography, examines the relationship between living beings and the natural world, seeing the body and nature as sites of constant change, creation and destruction, new and old.

In this transmission project between these dancing bodies, the artists looked to nature and how to capture an occurrence in all its wildly different materialisations; always in awe of the plasticity of forms that shape the same basic energies as they rear up into their full thunderous capacity, and then fall away to the gentlest of mists.



9 Short Films: The Journey of Alternately Terrific and Gentle

"Rain finally came and it’s beautifully cool. Wonder how long it will last. It was marvelous because it started suddenly and then was alternately terrific and gentle. I think of you all the time and therefor have little to say that would not embarrass you, for instance my first feeling about the rain was that it was like you”.

The Selected Letters of John Cage by John Cage. Edited by Laura Kuhn

Below are the 9 short films that show the journey of the work we made. It has been reimagined many times since its creation began and has been undeniably shaped by this past year’s events. The films themselves can be seen as a raining down of different ideas and interconnecting threads that pass from the movement material of Jodi Melnick, Jenny Roche and myself, Liz Roche to a further group of extraordinary collaborating artists that hail from different corners of the world. These artists have brought their own distinctive creative voices to the shared movement material and through working with videographer José Miguel Jiménez, composer Robert Boston and in some cases collaborators of their own, the resulting films show their responses to the movement, the material inspirations, landscape and also this moment we are living in. Distance, longing, togetherness, liveness are all in the mix, giving rise to another moment from John Cage’s letters to Merce Cunningham where he writes, “I would like to measure my breath in relation to the air between us”.

We are suggesting a journey through the films below, but ultimately it is up to you to choose your path through.


Choreographers: Jodi Melnick, Liz Roche, Jenny Roche
Dancers: Justine Cooper, Jenny Roche, Liz Roche
Camera and edit: José Miguel Jiménez
Music: Robert Boston
Sound Samples: Maïa Nunes

A word from Jodi
“This project started as a trio based work with myself and long-time collaborators and friends, Liz and Jenny. We have all worked for each other in some capacity surrounding dance, as dancer/performer, choreographer/director, teacher, interviewer, interviewee. Our desires were to spend concentrated times together, both in Ireland, and NYC, creating this new trio and then transferring it to 3 new bodies who have not shared the same devoted time together. Our interest was to see how the transmission of that information might be interpreted through both the written and our physical language. A new cipher that exists somewhere between the written and the doing/making of the work. Like the rest of the world, since March 2019, the piece has been turned on its side, torn away from us and has taken on a completely new life without our consent, desires, and control. This is not a bad thing, just not the thing we had ever thought to imagine.”

A word from Justine
“Entering into the experience of being part of ‘Alternatively Terrific and Gentle’ was initially about learning Jodi Melnick’s movement material and then re transcribing it into my own body. A Chinese whisper from one body to another. The next layer was to find the weave of the trio with Liz and Jenny with influences from Leonard Cohen’s poetry and of course the mighty life force of Bob Dylan’s song ‘A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall’. A deep privilege to feel moved by the energy of revolution that surges, stamps, soars, punches and then lets it all go with lightest of touches. The simplicity of a dance to a song that captures the opera of life in all its colourful strokes and then the music ends and you know you feel forever thankful for the dance because it let you feel it all and know it somehow with deeper intimacy and wider spaciousness”..

Dancer: Paul White
Camera: Pippa Samaya
Edit: Pippa Samaya
Music: Robert Boston

“While the trio was deeply interconnected, it was also a solo journey for each of us that we knew we would pass on. So, beginning from something very interconnected at the core, it spiralled outwards into other spaces— from the studio into the cityscape and into nature— with a sense that it would keep travelling further away from us and towards our collaborators in other countries.”

Paul spent three weeks in studios in Berlin and Amsterdam learning Jenny’s movement material from the trio, as well as some other phrases from the “Not Dylan” that he was drawn to. Paul is an extraordinarily physical dancer and he mentioned how there was a lightness in this movement was something new for him. There is a simplicity of form in the trio but what makes the movement soar is the full embodiment of the memories and ideas that inspired it and of course, when they are not your own, it can be a challenge to find. Talking over Zoom about the inner landscapes that shaped each movement was really important, with Paul periodically asking ‘what are you practicing in this moment’. Paul wanted to somehow keep the feeling of a trio even though he was alone in the work. For the filming with Pippa Samaya they found the sense of a trio through shadows in the lighting and also the more concrete introduction of a second dancer in the shadows behind him.

As a solo this material becomes a dialogue between the performer and the movement itself and when that presence with the moment is embraced it can become epic – well, on the inside anyway.

Dancer: Colin Dunne
Camera and edit: José Miguel Jiménez
Music: Robert Boston

The first idea proposed to Colin was that he would work with Jodi and she would pass her movement from the trio to him. Aside from admiring his work, she was interested in the transformation that would occur across the different techniques and approaches and what this exchange would bring. As a trio we were also drawn to how Colin is in performance and the way that he works with opposites, combining ease with rigour, informality with virtuosity.

The process began with one plan and then COVID struck so a new plan had to be hatched. Liz went to Limerick and taught movement which Jodi then followed up with further details and developments online. Colin chose to focus on certain material, reshaping it into movement that made sense for his body.

Various levels of lockdown dictated how, where and when we filmed but all of these uncertainties, humour, informalities, and coincidences are in this film which encompasses Colin’s journey with this body of material.

Dancer: Mufutau Yusuf
Camera: Davide Belotti
Edit: Davide Belotti
Music: Robert Boston

“The process for Alternatively Terrific and Gentle has been one of the most interesting and unique artistic process I have engaged in to date. Due to the circumstances that we were confined to over these last months, it was certainly an unusual and thought-provoking way to work. This being my first work with Liz Roche Company, choosing to work with her material, and never actually being in the studio together with her, led me to realise that I was in a somewhat privilege position, in a sense that Liz had to have had some degree of trust in me to embody and work with her ideas. Upon reflection, it’s that trust that I find most intriguing throughout the process, among many other things, and it’s a trust that is translated into so many aspects of the piece. It’s illustrated, for example, through trusting this novel way of working through the digital platform, trusting the collaborative process, trusting the ideas and movements as they evolve and are transmuted by each of us and by external circumstances, trusting myself and new experiences, trusting the body, trusting the new challenges to our creativity, trusting the unknown, and so on and so forth. I find myself drawn to this trust because it’s what I believe crucial in navigating through this period of uncertainty, especially for artists. And also, out of this trust are borne new ideas and perspectives, inspirations for change and a reinforced belief in the collective energy and effort.”

Mufutau Yusuf, on creating his piece for ATG.

Dancers: Colin Dunne & Jodi Melnick
Camera (Salt): Dean Villarini
Camera (Church): José Miguel Jiménez
Edit: José Miguel Jiménez

Dancers: Jodi Melnick & Malcolm Low
Camera: Dean Villarini
Additional camera: Art Becofsky
Edit: José Miguel Jiménez
Music: Robert Boston

“Because of proximity in location and the ability to work outside, and because my adoration for Malcolm Low as an artist happened at the same time as the pandemic, we were able to start a new branch of what I had established with Liz and Jenny in the trio material in the previous months.

Shared material from J,L, J was now re configured for Malcolm and myself- the relationship to the making, doing, the environment, the political and cultural climate, and the shear fear of sharing even an outside space were all severely present.

Finding the quarry to film in, was the next charge in this chapter with Malcolm.

I was something bigger than what we were dealing with–to be held by the vast landscape, held together by the stone walls, cradled by the gravel mounds and the shined on from the gorgeous sky, we were both quite awestruck to be amongst this new planet.

There is something spiritual about the work, the time I sent with Malcolm, the relief to maintain the idea of forwardness, the continued act of creating, making, dancing, rehearsing, relocating, and not resisting what is and letting go of what I thought was to be.

From my notes: ‘Malcolm, how can we be soft and gentle and convey the sense of vastness, spellbound by of movement?

How can we experience our glimmering relationship to touch when it is what we are fearing the most?”


Performers: Jenny Roche, Justine Cooper, Liz Roche
Camera and edit: José Miguel Jiménez
Music: Robert Boston
Voice: Jude Foley

When we realised that the live installation would not be going ahead, we wanted to give a sense of what might have been. With a skeleton set-up, we filmed for a day in the Complex in Dublin, revisiting the movement of the original Trio as a way of tracing through this journey and bringing it to a close….. for now.

Concept: Liv O’Donoghue, Rachel Donnelly, José Miguel Jiménez
Performer: Liv O’Donoghue
Writer: Rachel Donnelly
Director of Photography + Editor: José Miguel Jiménez
Production Designer + Costume: Ellen Kirk
Sound Designer: Kevin Gleeson
Gaffer: John Gunning
Production Assistant: Alice Murphy

“When I first saw the trio I was struck by how it never “lands” anywhere, never settles. The choreography is constantly proposing something new, constantly moving, shifting, changing direction. Then, through a combination of conversations with Liz and looking at the process materials behind the work, I was also struck by the expansive ideas at its core – huge emotions like love and loss, and vast questions about the value of ever having existed, about nature and its weather systems. I knew I wanted to somehow tap into that sense of the epic through the work I would create.

I was also fascinated by the concept behind the project, of connecting all of the commissioned artists across experience and geography through the kernel of the source material (Leonard Cohen’s writing on poetry, John Cage’s letters to Merce Cunningham, etc.). Liz had proposed that I make a text-based response, and so, in collaboration with writer Rachel Donnelly and filmmaker José Miguel Jiménez, we came up with the concept of an archive that attempts to capture all of human experience through an act of radical empathy.

Our character approaches this act of archiving through her own body and voice. She assembles fragments of recorded memories, handles abandoned possessions, and tries to embody the physical experiences of others. The archive she builds is a wash of sound, movement, image, taste, smell and touch. It’s something living, breathing and never-finished.

Sound designer Kevin Gleeson and production designer Ellen Kirk were instrumental in bringing this detailed world to life. Created under lockdown restrictions we were challenged in many ways, but I’m proud of what the team has been able to achieve. The film ultimately exceeded the proportions of this project and so we are sharing just some extracts for now, with the full film to be released in 2021.”

Liv O Donoghue

Please, put on your headphones for an optimal experience.

Soundscape and performance: Maïa Nunes
Camera: Gesiye Souza-Okpofabri
Edit: José Miguel Jiménez
Styling & Assisting: Malia Bennett Henry
Final Audio Mix: Rory White

“In response to a love letter between Merce Cunningham and John Cage, a sonic love letter of my own. He describes the rain as Alternately Terrific and Gentle, reminding him of his lover. My work is a meditation on the relationship between love and rain; nostalgia, remembering and haunting; thirst, yearning, erotic energy, release and liberation. Terrific and gentle are different phases in the same cycle, we are all constantly transitioning from states of desire/longing, climax and release, in a “ritual of thirst” (Alexis Pauline Gumbs). This work explores intergenerational relationships to desire, rivers and the rain, and ancestors who were dancing for rain, beating drums for rain, praying for downpour. Rain evokes, unearths, cleanses, reminds us of the transience of emotion. This work reminds us that the skies need to break and release so that we can experience renewal, and harvest”.

Maia Nunes

Photos by José Miguel Jiminéz


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