One of the first improvisations that Liz asked Ailish and I to interpret was how would the body move if, instead of contracting away from violence or force coming towards it, the body opened and presented its most vulnerable parts forward as a reverse defence of sorts. This created a whole new language in the body and became a very big energy signature woven through the physical architecture of the piece.
The next stage of development brought Sarah Cerneaux into the fold and Liz crafted a duet between Sarah and I set to the spoken word poem written and read by Elaine Feeney. There was such a ferocity, anger, exhaustion and unrelenting fight to the rhythm and spit of the poem that inside it felt like it was the body’s inner monologue expressing and fighting its way out. Physically, mentally and emotionally it was a true challenge as the pathways of movement were incredibly cryptic and the stamina and endurance required was huge from beginning to end.
I learnt so much about partnership because this was my first time dancing a full piece within a duet context. The endeavour to find oneness when there are two of ye and how to find the place of unity was a deep gift of an experience.
The onwards journey led to Mary Wycherley’s film, made in response to the poem and physical embodiment. Mary shot one half of the film in the Peacock Theatre with Sarah and I dancing the physical score and improvising with glass containers full of water and ice.
The second half of the film was shot in a cave just beyond a beach. The cave for me represented a place of deep grief and stored loss that was buried in the dark and unlit places of the body. I felt the generations that had come before me and the blood line of women that never had an opportunity to express what had to be hidden, and it felt very healing to honour the body by giving it voice and, through the dimension of film, a new intimacy.
At the time of its first performance as part of Dublin Fringe Festival 2016, Ireland was in the midst of The Amend the 8th protests and there was revolution rising to overturn the constitutional ban on abortion. The wave of collective energy gave an urgency to the intention and flint of the piece and I remember feeling like I was engaged in something that had a forcefield beyond the sum of its parts and that was deeply important. It felt like a cross between a physical purging, an ancient rebel yell and a womb prayer all at the same time. For the Dublin Dance Festival in 2018 Liz extended the piece to include the physical voice of a male duet danced by Jack Webb and Kévin Coquelard. The male duet embodied the same choreography as Sarah and I, and would be performed dove tailed one after the other. Felt like the second half of a circle was created and a perspective from both viewpoints given voice through the body.
A three-week run at Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2018 came forth next and at this stage The Amend the 8th had been successful and the constitutional ban on abortion had been overthrown in Ireland. It was fascinating to see how this reflected also in a shift of energy for the piece, a softening happened organically as it remained connected to the present moment and the collective energy. Physically, mentally and emotionally the discipline and demand of performing such an intense piece every day for 3 weeks was a huge challenge but the learning and intimacy of meeting the piece daily brought so many new layers of fortitude and listening. Feel forever grateful for the gift of being part of this brave work, it was a pilgrimage and one I grew from deeply and feel honoured to have brought through my body, mind and heart.