12 Minute Dances

Civic Theatre, Tallaght
Cork Opera House
2017
Photo by Luca Truffarelli

A picture lives by companionship, expanding and quickening in the eyes of the sensitive observer.”

MARK ROTHKO

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A collection of short works first performed in 2009 and being revived in 2017 for performances at the Civic Theatre in Tallaght and Cork Opera House. The works appear as a wash of colour, movement, rhythm and emotion; human embodiment as a dynamic event. The audience completes the picture.

12 Minute Dances was selected as one of the Irish Times Highlights of 2009 by Michael Seaver:

Liz Roche’s 12-minute dances for Rex Levitates Dance Company were carefully crafted and deliberately understated, and confirmed her position as the one of the most thought-provoking Irish choreographers around.” 

PRODUCTION CREDITS

Choreography Liz Roche 

Lighting Design Kevin Smith

Costume Design Catherine Fay

Set Design Joe Vanek

Original Music by Edward Rosenberg and Joel Mellin

Original Cast: Grant McLay, Katherine O’Malley, Lee Clayden, Liz Roche, Cliodhna Hoey

2010 Cast: Philip Connaughton, Liv O'Donoghue, Katherine O'Malley, Jenny Roche, Cliodhna Hoey, Liz Roche

2017 Cast: Katherine O’Malley, Miguel do Vale, Liv O'Donoghue, Cliodhna Hoey, Ryan O'Neill, Ailish Maher.

Musician Sean MacErlaine

12 minute Dances Photo by Luca Truffarelli
12 minute Dances Photo by Luca Truffarelli

★★★★★

Throughout, flashes of colour inform Roche’s beautifully formed and flowing physical images, as six dancers, and a musician, convey moments of power and vulnerability in five pieces as stunning as they are moving.”

CHRIS O’ROURKE, THE ARTS REVIEW

Archive

Reflections by Liz Roche
on the creation of
12 Minute Dances in 2009

 

What was everything about – I remember….

The paintings of Mark Rothko.
Each piece was assigned a pairing of colour in the style of a Rothko painting…….. Tan and grey. Blue and black. Silver and pale green. Sinead Wallace’s lighting design reflected the Rothko squares and increased and decreased in number throughout. The premiere took place at SS.Michael and John’s – Banquet Hall – Smock Alley. Light fixtures sat on the ground and were moved by the dancers. There was a light in a box that projected light upwards for the solo and when knocked over onto its side, for the duet, it glared along the vast diagonal of the hall. Big heavy wooden tables were stacked in the corners to make platforms. We changed our clothes behind the seating bank and through the door, in the freezing kitchen. It was always cold in there. Sweating but cold…. trying to stretch out my tight calf. Katherine’s finger in a splint. Her sleeping with her hand in a glove of Arnica. Changing the duet so she wouldn’t use that hand. Having to do the show anyway.

Moving into making 12 Minute Dances, I wanted to escape all narratives and create movement as it made sense to me. The previous year, I had made a duet that I called “Getting Lost” with dancers Ashley Chen and Katherine O’Malley to a piece of contemporary music by composer Julia Wolfe. The movement in the duet had explored the highly energetic, almost chaotic feeling of Wolfe’s score and quite by accident, had yielded a palpable narrative without any intention on my part to do so. I simply made the movement with the dancers as it came to me in the moment and narratives appeared. I decided to build on the good experience of this duet and began to create the series of pieces that would later become 12 Minute Dances.

I asked dancer Katherine O’Malley to work with me on a new duet. Our similar physicality allowed us to assume each others roles and movements, finishing each others movement sentences while also mirroring one another. As we are both physically strong, we tried to change our self imposed patterns and expectation of ourselves and as a result developed very detailed nuanced movements as opposed to movements created by the more usual extreme and dynamic use of our bodies. This tendency to push our physical limits while performing had run its course and so in this new creation we decided to consciously pull back form that place of extremity. We experienced our ‘edges” but did not challenge them, instead physically and performatively we hovered in a place slightly in the background, thus discovering a new, more subtle approach to moving.

In the creation of the quintet and quartet that accompanied these two duets, I again assumed the position of mover and maker in the work. I made the Quintet first. For me the Quintet was a development of the first “Getting Lost” duet with Ashley Chen and Katherine O’Malley. Now as 5, we worked our way through the map of the duet, re-sizing the movement so it would now have sense as a quintet. This was not a logical or achievable task but as a blueprint it offered enough structure that we could organize ourselves loosely in space and then I could solve the choreographic problems or create new material based on the older versions to bring us from point A to point B etc. It felt like a traveling circus – any personal movement decision had to be multiplied by five and then reinterpreted by each dancer with an agreement that we would arrive and depart to fixed points together with some certainty. It was fast moving and precisely timed, even a little dangerous in places. As I danced with the group, my internal rhythms connecting deeply to theirs and to the structures of the music (by Ed Rosenberg), there was also a sense of strict structure and repeatability running alongside real possibility to respond improvisationally in the moment.

When we moved to the creation of the Quartet, I remember falling into a state of creative overwhelm. I created a series of movements with the dancers, where we attempted to move in a constant state of connection, only breaking away for brief interludes. I then created many versions of the same sentences of movement material that manifested as similar but with subtle shifts of direction or intensity and speed. There was a sense of a collective brain at work as we traversed the many different versions of the material across this piece alone as well as the other pieces in the programme. I wrote a score and we followed it in our minds, always adding another accumulated layer of complexity as the piece progressed. On the outside I think the work was perceived as quite light but from the inside the complexity was maddening. I hoped that I would fall into a trance and my body would just carry out the required next steps but unfortunately that never happened.

Instead, as a group we had to stay uncomfortably conscious throughout every second, running the scores and iterations in our heads ensuring that we were in the right place at the right time. A mistake could send the whole group in another direction of the score that might omit a large section of the piece, and it would be impossible to fix mid-way as the music (by Joel Mellin) gave no clues, only a constant undulating pulse. In this piece, I could not venture beyond the role of the dancer. After rehearsals each evening, I couldn’t watch footage from the day, as I would normally. I was completely absorbed in the dancing of the piece, unable to step outside and see it as the audience might. Any choreographic direction came from the viewpoint just above my right eye, that could look from slightly above the work and imagine the 3D needs of the piece itself. The patterns in my head and playing out around me would travel in on themselves and through themselves, like imagining movement in a virtual space, but with no fixed viewpoint. In short, this piece had no outside eye, and surprisingly, on seeing it much later in a performance video, it is well structured and spatially well balanced. Interestingly, on reflection, it is a little too even.

Liz Roche

 

Note:

In 2017 Liz Roche company remounted the piece for a theatre space with redesigned light, costume and set. It was performed at The Civic Theatre Tallaght and Cork Opera House. Cliodhna Hoey returned to dance the work as did Katherine O’Malley. Liv O’Donoghue, Miguel do Vale, Ryan O’Neill and Ailish Maher joined the cast. Joe Vanek designed the set, with lighting by Kevin Smith and costumes by Catherine Fay. This time the work was brighter. Brighter Rothko’s. Oranges, yellows, reds, blues and browns. Lines of striking orange light, not so many squares anymore. Painted set, that came to life with light. It became a painting somehow. Light box behind the dancers growing. Saxophonist Sean McErlaine performed the solo with Cliodhna Hoey dancing. 

 

We are proud of our partners.

Liz Roche Company is strategically funded by the Arts Council