The Here Trio

premiere The MAC Belfast
Commissioned & Co-Produced by Maiden Voyage Dance
DATES 7-8 February 2020
Photo credit Luca Truffarelli

An intriguing reflection on space, history and the transitory, uncertain nature of our humdrum existence.

☆☆☆☆   JANE COYLE   |   THE STAGE

The Here Trio premiered in Belfast in February 2020 one week after Brexit. Performed as part of a programme of work around Boundaries and Belonging, The Here Trio challenges preconceived ideas about the right to belong in a place and reflects on our impermanent existence in the rapidly changing environments we inhabit.

The dancers movements convey bodies that are slightly ‘out-side’ of themselves, agitated and driven, even stressed. Voices are independent from their speakers, images fracture and reform, and the senses are stuck in over exaggerated comparisons. Time doesn’t flow, but hiccups along, with memories and imagined histories erupting throughout.

The piece is made in close collaboration with the dancers Sarah Cerneaux, Ryan O’Neill and Gloria Ros Abellana and with videographer and sound designer Luca Truffarelli, lighting designer Stephen Dodd and composer Bryan O’Connell.

In October, Liz Roche reworked The Here Trio with dancers Ryan O’Neill, Justine Cooper and Lucia Kickham taking into consideration social distancing restrictions and the new environment and conditions for live performance due to the Covid pandemic.

This new version now moves between the original and the present live performance with an increased emphasis on film throughout. This creates new resonances with the idea of what it means to be “here”, especially now as we navigate this turbulent moment of change in our lives.

Due to the pandemic, live performances at Tipperary Dance Platform International Festival and Dance Limerick were cancelled but the piece was filmed at The Source Arts Centre, Thurles, and broadcast for TDP’s digital programme during the festival.

 

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PRODUCTION CREDITS

Directed and Choreographed by Liz Roche
with dancers Ryan O'Neill, Lucia Kickham, Justine Cooper (re-worked version)
and Ryan O'Neill, Sarah Cerneaux, Glria Ros Abellana (original and film)

Sound Design & Visuals by Luca Truffarelli

Lighting Design by Stephen Dodd

Original Music and drum recordings by Bryan O'Connell

Set and costume by Liz Roche

Set build by Theatre Production Services

Drum samples by kind permission of Jeremy Davis

Production Manager Sebastián Pizarro Olivera
Stage Manager Lisa Krugel
Company Manager Moyra D'Arcy
Digital Communications Manager Noelia Ruiz

Original production commissioned by Maiden Voyage Dance

Co-produced by Maiden Voyage Dance & Liz Roche Company

Supported by The Arts Council of Ireland and Dublin City Council and by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland; by the National Lottery through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland & by Belfast City Council.

THE HERE TRIO
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Choreographer's Note February 2020

Where is ‘here’ for anybody?

It’s an interesting time and place to be making a dance about boundaries and belonging in Northern Ireland. At this time when there has been so much confusion around our shared future on the island of Ireland, it is definitely the right moment to come together as artists and reaffirm our position of openness and interconnectivity.

In my experience, relationships between dance artists and companies, North and South, has always been good.  The Here Trio will be our 3rd co-production with Maiden Voyage (Senses 2002 and Neither Either 2014). We have toured these works together throughout the island, shared resources and continue to support each other as colleagues and friends. Previous to this we have toured with other Northern Irish artists as part of programmes of Irish contemporary dance abroad, and performed in many venues and festivals, including the Lyric Theatre and Belfast International Arts Festival. In short, there are strong relationships there and Brexit won’t necessarily change that, but it does place an initial barrier of confusion and lack of certainty that will take time to work out. The arts only survive through us all working together and there are enough difficulties as it is, so for Brexit to potentially add to that is a real concern.

In preparation for the making of The Here Trio I thought first about the history of the actual site of The MAC theatre in Belfast where we will premiere. I was thinking about all of the traffic of life that passes through a particular point in space over the years, a ‘here’. It made me question what and how things get remembered.  I thought about how physical scars are permanent on the body, acting as triggers for memory, and how that can be in contrast to a site, where the memory can be erased with the destruction of the old structure and rewritten with the construction of the new. As the research continued childhood memories of the North came back to me. In the mid 80’s, my uncle and his family lived in Coleraine, so visits were regular enough at that time. I remember the tension that crept into the car while approaching the border. My parents played the experience down but as the car passed the signs for exchanging money and then the soldiers appeared, we knew as kids to stop messing. Soldiers with guns, their boyish faces peering in the window and out from behind hedges. The sight of a real gun was shocking; it still is. Looking back on this time, from the comparatively comfortable distance of Dublin, I realise that I grew up thinking of the situation in the North as quite manageable in comparison to other places in a state of conflict. Even the reality of the armoured cars, and the walls built across streets and the barbed wire, seemed to be normal enough. And when I look back at those years and time spent later in the North I realise how wrong I was. It’s only as an adult, that the full extent of what people lived through really hits home.

 

In The Here Trio, the dancers movements convey bodies that are agitated and driven, even stressed. Dancers Ryan O’Neill, Glòria Ros Abellana and Sarah Cerneaux, displace and replace each other in space, forming unstable agreements and testing the limits of their cooperation. The sound score is by drummer Bryan O’Connell with a stunning lighting design by Stephen Dodd and sound design and visuals by Luca Truffarelli. 

 

Dance captures the body; its patterns, movements, expressions and energies. A person can say a thing but if their body isn’t behind it, it doesn’t have any weight or conviction. In dance we highlight what the body does before words are formed. We explore instinct and gut reaction, and in The Here Trio we have really tried to trust what the body says before the thinking mind has too much time to get in the way. The result is a point-blank physical response to the themes above.

Rememberings 2020 and 2021 - during and post Covid cancellations, postponments and re-imaginings

First rememberings for re-staging

The set is a green floor and a green wall. It can be a fixed space, an island, Ireland, a screen for projection. All of these things.

Costumes – functional, working clothes – neither indoors or outdoors. Bare feet because its easier to move.

Music – drums. Improvised, throbbing, incessant, loud. Broken with silence. Movement with sound, then the reverse and vice versa. Hearing rhythms in the silence – after effect of the beat.

Sound design – overwhelm, traffic, people, time, thick air. Slow speaking, taking time to say something. Having time to notice everything about the moment.

Bryan projected in the middle part of the piece as he played a drum solo: This was to do with identifying the source of the sound. Allowing audiences to see the person playing. Showing that he was “here” but at another time. He had passed through the work at a different time but his presence remained.

What happened in the making – all the back at the beginning

The Here Trio premiered at The MAC, Belfast in February 2020, commissioned by and programmed as part of Maiden Voyage Dance’s Boundaries and Belonging programme. The trio was created with dancers Sarah Cerneaux, Gloria Ros Abellana and Ryan O’Neill. A further version of the piece, influenced by the realities of the Coronavirus pandemic, was premiered as a dance film in February 2021. This version was a mixing of the original performance recording with a second socially distanced version that preserved the original cast on film and added a ‘live’ Ryan O’Neill with Lucia Kickham and Justine Cooper.  The creative process began in November 2019.  I sent the dancers an email that questioned their thoughts and experiences of being “here”. I asked them “how do you know you are here?” – in terms of what physical sensations confirm to then that they are present. I also asked them to think about the traffic of life that passes through a space and how patterns of that movement are laid down over time.

They sent me their responses and I began to form texts that would set the investigation once we met in the studio together. In the rehearsal room I explored the dynamics that emerge when three people are in relationship in space together. I instigated long improvisations of up to an hour and recorded them. I played radio interviews throughout, or sometimes simple playlists unrelated to the subject matter being explored; anything to instill a sense of life passing through a moment. Over time, the energy of the “three” in the space began to emerge. This led to my forming of choreography that explored themes of ‘displacement’ where each of the dancers vied to either displace or replace one another as they moved throughout the rehearsal space.

I identified and edited the movement that they generated which held interest for me, adding spacial and rhythmical disruptions to be overcome, as well as instigating further explorations into physical textures and sensation. I generated none of the original movement, instead taking the lead from the dancers as the movement deepened and developed within them.

In the process I could see how there bodies would intuitively continue the direction of a phrase once the known movement had ended – the afterglow of potential movement would then be encouraged to keep going which would yield more movement in a similar strain. If the movement generated by the dancers began to go in a direction that did not make sense for me, I would then return to the earlier improvisation tasks as a way of reaffirming the core tenets of the investigation.

As I was not generating the movement as such, I undertook the design of both the set and costumes.  This is not usual practice in the making of my work but somehow I found that I needed to have control over those elements. I would normally collaborate with creative designers but in this case, a very clear image of the set structure and colour came into my head very early on in the process and I was curious to explore it. It also became important to me, in terms of my connection to the work, to have had these other inputs into its making.

As I was not dancing myself or generating the movement through my own physicality, I did struggle, at times, to remain connected to the material and to the piece itself. I can only describe this lack of connection as a “void” in my thinking when problems of direction or where to go next might arise. I found it difficult to remember why sections of movement had developed and for what purpose, and therefore continuing work on them could be stilted at times.

As I was not the materialized physical source, I could not rummage around in the sensation of the movement itself in order to find further inspiration, nor did I have  the layers of memory that built the movement up daily to draw on. I could not recall in my own body when a movement morphed from one texture to another and as such began to determine a different meaning. I could remember the prompt but the journey was sketchy.

One reflection on the making

The ‘disconnect’ felt as if my eyes were creating the piece as opposed to my subconscious.  My ‘eyes’ were reading the movement and codes within it as well as the scenography and the music, all the time searching for and finding/creating dramaturgical cohesion. It was a sense of ‘seeing’ or demonstrating that the piece was going the right direction as opposed to ‘knowing’ that to be true at a deeper level. In this piece I would describe myself as the author, and to a lesser degree the audience, as opposed to being its maker. I am curious as to why I framed that as an experience of loss at the time, I don’t feel that way now.

Links:

Also see Still Moving Blog

Sarah Cerneaux

Ryan O’Neill

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Liz Roche Company is strategically funded by the Arts Council