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Small Island: Big Island at Dublin Dance Festival

Aug 01, 2013

Dublin Dance Festival is the highlight of the contemporary dance calendar in Ireland and this year the festival featured a long weekend of Australian work in an initiative titled, Small Island: Big Island .

Julia Carruthers, Director of the festival had visited APAM  on a number of occasions and expressed an interest in Australian work that Lee-Anne Donnelly of Arts Projects Australia  fanned into a project with potential reciprocal exchange between these islands with so many cultural ties.

Australia Council Market Development and the IETM  Collaboration Project came in on the initiative with support for a delegation of fifteen international presenters to attend the Australian programme and meet with the artists, their producers and some additional Australian representatives who traveled to Dublin especially to take part in this unique networking opportunity.

The Australian works were selected by Carruthers to appeal to her local audiences and broaden their view of Australian culture. The Australian Embassy in Dublin was delighted to support a reception for the international presenters, local arts VIPS and the artists and festival team. Many meetings, lunches and conversations were enjoyed over the course of the busy four days.

The programme was launched by Ros Warby’s solo, Monumental, followed by a double bill of new work from Stephanie Lake and Larissa McGowan. Dual and Skeleton respectively made their European premieres. Lucy Guerin Inc presented Untrained, the popular quartet for two dancers and two regular blokes. On the final day the documentary about Tanja Liedtke, Life in Motion, was screened with an introduction from her friend and fellow dancer Theo Clinkard. Earlier in the week, Shaun Parker’s commissioned piece for a playground environment, SPILL, was shown in a local park to the great delight and astonishment of the locals, and Sydney Dance Company  also played a role in the programme, by sending a special choreography by Rafael Bonachela  to be learned and filmed by local dancers as the festival‘s signature video.

Presenters attending the event from France, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, England, Scotland, Ireland, Poland and the USA were impressed by the dynamism and variety of the works on show. Sophie Travers, Director of the IETM Australia Council Collaboration Project was especially pleased to be able to invite the new Artistic Director of Dance Umbrella in London, Emma Gladstone and the new Director of Tanz im August in Berlin, Virve Sutinen. Having Yolanda Cursach from the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago  was also a coup. In the lead up to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014, Travers was pleased with the strong Scottish showing, with the programmer of Tramway in Glasgow, Tim Nunn, the Director of Scottish Dance Theatre , Fleur Darkin and the Director of Dancebase in Edinburgh, Morag Deyes. Whilst Untrained was universally appreciated, many enjoyed discovering the quiet precision and quirkiness of Warby and others the barely contained energy of McGowan and Lake. It is likely that several invitations to present the work again in Europe will transpire, and all the presenters commented upon how useful it was for them to see a number of pieces together and to meet the artists and discuss the wider context of their work. The presenters also enjoyed meeting each other and forming new connections for sharing the costs of importing Australian work or commissioning work from the Australian artists for the future.

A few prominent Australia guests of the festival shared their thoughts of the event with Sophie Travers:

Lee-Anne Donnelly: Our hope was that the four very different Australian works programmed would pack a punch for the Irish dance sector and audiences, and that together they would leverage interest from key European presenters. All the works were enthusiastically received, and there is a lot of interest to present the work in the future. And in the spirit of exchange I am now working to bring a range of Irish contemporary dance to Australia.

Annette Vieusseux of Lucy Guerin Inc: The Big Island, Small Island focus within the Dublin Dance Festival was akin to having our own biennale pavillion space carved out for Australian dancers and choreographers – national identity mingled with international scope. I know I was not the only one to hear from audiences and presenters about the skill and talent of our dancers and the breadth and audacity of the choreographic vision on display. The Australian showcasing enabled us to connect swiftly with European presenters and potential collaborators and has already seeded projects and touring for 2014 and beyond. »

And the final word of course should go to our wonderful host, Julia Carruthers: The Australian artists came storming into Dublin after a classy first week for Dublin Dance Festival which had showcased European work, with Tero Saarinen Company and Ultima Vez/Wim Vandekeybus at the Abbey Theatre. The Aussies kept the Festival buzzing and provided exhilarating examples of what is out there. It was fantastic to show Dublin audiences and our local professionals the quality and level of the dancers, the freshness and thoughtfulness of the work and a hugely efficient yet relaxed approach to getting the show on.