Interview with Jean Butler | hurry
Iconic dancer Jean butler has come a long way since Riverdance and she’s back in Dublin this May for Dublin Dance Festival 2013. We caught up with her to talk about her new solo show hurry.
Can you tell us a little bit about what we can expect from your new show hurry?
(Laughs) How do you answer that question? It's like I should have these pre-thought answers to these questions. Y'know, it's a solo and I think every solo has a certain aspect of portraiture to it. It's certainly abstract but within that it's very personal. And there's no narrative, so you come and you impose your own meaning on the piece and everyone will have their own experience of it hopefully.
The piece also features an art installation. Is that a separate entity or is it presented alongside your solo?
Well y'know that's a good question. Well first of all it's Corban Walker, who's just incredible. I've always wanted to work with him and this opportunity, it's taken 6 years to pull it off. But certainly the piece was designed knowing that this is what we were going to be working with. And Corban's work - this particular piece, it's very linear and in hurry, the lines of the body are also very linear, so it's not two separate entities - you could look at it as two separate entities but there is definitely a relationship between the space, the body and this installation.
You name is synonymous with Riverdance. How do you feel you've changed as a person or a performer since your time with the company?
(Laughs) That's an even harder question to answer - I can't even remember it was so long ago. No, I mean, certainly my interest in dance has more relocated than changed because I still enjoy the high end commercial dance just as much, it's just that I enjoy it in a different way. My interest in performing right now is more concentrated on - how would I put it - I'm more interested in being more intimate with the audience. I'm more interested in the idea of vulnerability and exposure and what can be revealed through movement. So basically the process I think is more… it's also a generative process, so I'm making something from nothing. So I'm making the paint to paint with. Whereas in, certainly in my experience with Irish dancing and the commercial shows, I already had the paint, I had the technique, I had the steps, I knew what I was doing. So this is a totally different way of working.
You mentioned the idea of being more intimate with the audience. With this piece it is completely choreographed or is there any sense of improvisation through your connection with the audience?
This piece is not improvised. It is highly choreographed, to the point of where your elbow is at this angle or that angle, but that certainly doesn't mean it's just reproduced. I mean the whole essence of why I'm interested in being a performer is that in the moment, that everything has to be absolutely real in the moment. So it's not something I've just cooked earlier and I'm just giving it to you. It is about the feel of the audience, the feel of myself that day, the weather outside. I mean all of those things come straight in to effect how you perform. Where you perform in the run - the first night is different to the second night is different to the third night. It's highly choreographed, but it's also new every time I do it.
hurry is described as a reconnection to you history and training in Irish step dance. How does this manifest itself in the performance?
I don't think it'll be as visible. The last piece I worked on I didn't choreograph. This piece I choreographed under the direction of Jon Kinzel. And when I talk about creating the material to then create the piece, creating the vocabulary, that vocabulary has come from my body and my body comes from a place of tradition for over 30 years. So inevitably, the material that comes out of me is going to be related to that, but it's not necessarily going to be completely visible to everyone in the audience. It's hard for me to explain it. I mean for instance, if a ballet dancer did a solo, created a solo, the material that came out of her body would be completely different from the material that comes out of my body because we have different backgrounds, because we have different influences, because we've had different training. So when people ask me "does it look Irish?", to my mind it looks Irish, because I grew up in a world of Irish dancing. To Irish dancers they will notice certain moves and certain abstractions, but I don't know if it will look Irish to the non-Irish eye.
Going back to Riverdance - did you find your experience there a help or a hindrance at all when you decided to explore other strands of dance?
I could answer that from so many different levels. I guess overall… it wasn't a hindrance, I would say that. I mean the difficulty with working from a place of tradition is, what do you with it? And how do you keep re-evaluating your relationship with it if you're interested in using it in a different way that is known and a different way that people expect you to dance. So I guess the expectations of other people of how I was moving might have been curious. I mean they were certainly curious as to why I would do something like this. But I just wanted to keep dancing. I wanted to keep exploring. I wanted to see what else this codified body was able to do. And I think also, if you think about this more in terms of a trajectory - y'know I often laugh thinking my final piece when hopefully I'm 70 or something, it might consist of two movements. There seems to be in me this constant reduction of, sort of getting rid of anything that's decorative and really getting to something more elemental.
You lived in Dublin for nearly two decade, will you have time to revisit some old spots while you're here for the Dublin Dance Festival?
Hopefully yeah lots. I just really want to hang out with my friends. I'm taking a couple of days after, which will be really nice. I'm usually in town for work and we don't have much time, so I'm really excited to hang out with my friends and go up to the mountains and up to Wicklow and takes some nice walks.
hurry runs in Project Arts Centre from 18th - 21st May at 8pm (6pm on Sunday the19th). Tickets: €17 - €22.
Story by EI Team | 09:00 | Thursday 9th May 2013 | Theatre