PREMIERE National Gallery of Ireland
DATES 6-9 July 2018
PHOTO CREDIT Luca Truffarelli

"The whole is other than the sum of the parts”

Liz Roche Company leaves behind the comfort of the traditional theatre space for the newly refurbished National Gallery of Ireland as part of a major programme of work to mark its opening.

Here, in the wonderfully renovated Milltown and Dargan Wings, an extraordinary company of dancers and musicians will both confront and collaborate with this landmark artistic space in a joint act of creative renewal.

Drawing on its surroundings and the ways in which we interpret in a gallery setting, Totems moves through the Shaw Room and Upper Gallery of the National Gallery in a series of intricate physical patterns resonating with the live score and imagining relationship to the surrounding memories, symbols and histories.

“In Totems, the National Gallery of Ireland, along with its paintings are challenged, confronted and collaborated with by Roche, from a lived feminist perspective. Just like the newly refurbished National Gallery Totems makes some singularly strong choices that will certainly divide opinion……it is a work of undeniable power, one that is always thought provoking and, very often, crafts moments of sublime beauty.”



Choreography Liz Roche in collaboration with dancers Henry Montes, Glòria Ros Abellana, Miguel Do Vale, Marc Stevenson, Liv O’Donoghue, Katherine O’Malley

Music composition and performance Ray Harman, Mary Barnecutt, Doug Sheridan

Costume Design Catherine Fay

Lighting Design Stephen Dodd

Photography and Videography Luca Truffarelli

TOTEMS by Liz Roche Company National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin Dance Festival 2018 photo by Luca Truffarelli
TOTEMS by Liz Roche Company National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin Dance Festival 2018 photo by Luca Truffarelli
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Reflections by dancer Glòria Ros Abellana on performing Totems at the National Gallery of Ireland

I remember:

The roughness of the carpets. The colours of the clothes. Spaciousness.

A sense of sacredness, an ancestral force, very close to the earth and to the skin. The roughness of the carpets.

An awareness of linear time traversing us from the past of the paintings, brought to the present, and from there I would have expected on into the future. Hope, elevation, clear blue. The colour of the clothes. Rather than being projected towards a future though, the timeline kept advancing with us in a continuous present, riding the weights and levities of the music.
The perception of the air’s density, itself being sculpted by the movement of our bodies. Spaciousness. Volumes in and around the body, volumes in the sound.
The communion between what is terrestrial and spiritual.

I remember being surrounded by something greater than us.

Who are they? The ones painted, moving, watching, sculpted. Who is anybody? The story of the one who is anonymous and long gone, brought to focus. The story of one and all, perhaps all of our stories. There is a strange agreement amongst these detailed creatures and there seems to be a purpose too. There are no faces yet. Instead of eyes and mouths, legs and arms are talking. As detailed as words. Shapes and configurations talking. Fingers, hair, toes, skin, tone, muscle, bone.

I can feel his fingers on my iliac crest and around my arm. He was always wearing a ring and would squeeze me a little too hard.

As if they saw themselves for the first time and thus became conscious of their materiality, these bodies get confused when realizing their own presence. A network of gazes -paintings, audience, us- shifts calmly from one place to another. Not searching for anything, but in a state of contemplation and reception. Eyes caressing, eyes with a sense of touch.

I realize how much my memories of the piece belong to its very core, and at the same time, how far from it they are. They come from a lived experience of Totems – what could be closer to its truth than that?-. But they are entirely personal, biased by what my mental hard disk has chosen to keep and erase, a preference for retaining what moves my guts and discard what I distrust, the incorruptible physical memory of my body, whatever I feared at that moment – what could be further away from an object than that?

I think of the value of things that are temporary – The voice of “well, what is there that is not temporary?” resounds in my mind, but I can’t take on the size of this question.- Today I appreciate the short life the piece had, which belonged there and then. Maybe reproducing it somewhere else would have meant displacement. A violation to its essence by the imposition of human will, that does not listen to the nature of things as they are. No, it was fair. This dance piece was held in those rooms in a visual conversation with its contraries: permanence, solidity, worship, hierarchy, memory, attachment.

There were sounds I had forgotten, as if I had never heard them. I almost feel guilty for that. Some textures, though, have stayed on my fingertips all the way until today.

I remember the words about being a woman being said in a room full of men: the painters, the painted, the ones who selected what to be painted, the ones who paid for that, and those who chose what to be hung up in the room. The word woman, then the woman. Her weight walking, occupying her space.

So much life and so much beauty, on the hands and on the faces.

On the life of volume and the volume of life.

What is left from it in me? In you? In anybody?


We are proud of our partners.

Liz Roche Company is strategically funded by the Arts Council and supported by Dublin City Council