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Art seen: Laud Of The Dance

I've been dancing since I was six or seven and started with a fantastic ballet teacher in Dublin called Jill Wiggan. I did ballet, tap, and modern with her, but ballet was my main training. I won a scholarship to train with Dublin City Ballet in 1982. I did my training there, and the first show I would have done was Les Sylphides in the Gate. I danced with the company 'til it closed in 1986.

I've been a CoisCéim frequenter since its inception. Artistic director David Bolger and I have worked together on lots of things -- I've been an assistant and an associate choreographer on lots of projects and pieces. And because this is the celebration of their 15 years in existence, they thought it would be good if I made a small piece for them.

David is making one half of the evening. He's doing Faun. I've had the idea for As You Are, my piece, for a while. It's about the group and the individual, how much control do you have over your life, and the price you pay for conformity, or for non-conformity.

In my head, the piece is set in a test centre for superheroes. The superheroes are flawed. My analogy is that a flawed superhero equals a human. I had this idea that superheroes were like children with great imaginations, and that's what ends up getting quashed as we get older and we are assimilated into society. It's also a celebration of the imagination of artists; the dancers are incredible in the way they've been embracing the ideas and themes. We work in a task-based way, and they actually generate the movement.

Why do dancers become choreographers? I think to torture themselves! When you get an idea for a piece, you've got to get it out. It's a challenge -- there's not one right way of doing anything, and every time I approach a project it's a different kind of process. The one thing I'm always interested in is people's response to themes and ideas. Dancers' bodies and imaginations are amazing, and I'm collaborative in my approach in that way. Years ago, I never thought I would choreograph, and a lot of people choose not to. In contemporary dance, the dancers improvise a lot, and they often go on to make work, more so than ballet dancers. I'm probably late enough to it, because of my own work and all my ballet training. When I came to do more contemporary, the whole idea that you could be the choreographer didn't come as readily to me.

But my ballet background brings a richness to the work. It is an incredible training about form and line and discipline, and it certainly plays a part in my work and my approach to dance. To really get myself engrossed in contemporary dance, there were things from my ballet background that I had almost to reject, but I think I've come full circle in the appreciation of the value that ballet has given me.

This is my biggest work, and my biggest commission. It's an amazing artistic team, and I'm getting great support from CoisCéim and David. It's a big adventure for me; I'm absolutely thrilled ... and bricking it!

As You Are/Faun runs in Project Arts Centre 'til 23 January. www.projectartscentre.ie


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