Directed by Pat Collins (‘Living in a Coded Land’, ‘Silence’) and choreographed by Michael Keegan-Dolan, ‘The Dance’ brings to life an international dance and theatre work titled MÁM. MÁM was the result of eight weeks of intensive work and improvisation. The project is performed by twelve international dancers and seven musicians, with contemporary collective s t a r g a z e and Irish traditional concertina player Cormac Begley behind the music.
‘The Dance’ opens at the O’Reilly Theatre, where it was presented as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival in September 2019. It thus reflects a relatively idyllic time of creativity, when the arts was not under threat as a result of the pandemic. A man wearing a mask with horns stands before a little girl in her Communion dress. The curtains pull back and there’s a row of people wearing animal masks sitting in a row either side of him.
We flash back to eight weeks prior when the project is developed by the ensemble as they retreat to a Dingle peninsula. There are conversations about life and art, then the choreography commences as arms and limbs flap about the place, figures spin and flail.
In another scene, the company members go around to their fellow players, staring straight into one another’s eyes. It’s actually quite lovely and tender, and one of the participants gets quite teary in the process. At another point, they clap together and make strange noises, the intimacy of the process of collaboration proving quite touching.
Yet, while there’s clearly something penetrative and full of feeling going on between the dancers, it can be challenging from the viewer to feel as moved. One feels on the outside looking in and while watching the final performance live on stage probably felt more involving, one feels something was lost as it was translated to the big screen.
‘The Dance’ gets increasingly strange and uncomfortable. As the project is presented to a test audience, there’s a sequence where a man goes around kissing everyone in the performance, and even someone in the band, as the audience chuckles awkwardly, not knowing what to make of it. At one point, the choreographer encourages the dancers to “even if it’s the most ridiculous thing ever, you should do it.” Ridiculousness and inaccessibility is just what this reviewer was left with.