A Dance Concerto Available for touring to involve local community members
Choreography and direction | Laura Murphy Sound sore | Irene Buckley
A Dance Concerto is based on Laban Movement Choirs of the 1930s, features both professional and pre-professional dancers with an inter-generational cast of 40 persons from Cork city community. Tin cans generate music and movement that evolves from industrial beginnings through mass production to become something more familiar from our everyday lives. (The tin cans of food used in A Dance Concerto were donated to Cork Penny Dinners, along with those handed in by the audience as part of their entrance fee)
The Can Can, The Irish Times, 24 June 2014. Mary Leland
“Bravura” is a word that could also be applied to the first presentation of the festival. The entry fee to A Dance Concerto, part of the Firkin Crane Presents programme, includes two cans of tinned food. Choreographer Laura Murphy and composer Irene Buckley create a sequence of continuous movement, hypnotic in its pace and in the visual effect of its ranks of black-clad dancers, all obedient to an orchestra of tins. It is splendidly original; one doesn’t really expect food cans to be quite so active.
A Dance Concerto, Irish Examiner, 26 June 2014. Jo Kerrigan Rudolf von Laban (1879-1958), an important figure in dance, developed a concept known as ‘the movement choir’. Laura Murphy, dancer in residence at Cork’s Firkin Crane, and composer, Irene Buckley, drew on this for their striking work at the Cork Midsummer Festival. A Dance Concerto combined professional dancers and musicians, trainees, and members of the public in a fascinating performance. Food cans were the key, used for movement, sound, rhythm, and visual expression. Musicians squatted at low platforms, creating an atavistic beat from cans rattled, thumped, and tapped. Dancers (above) marched, swirled and twisted, lifting and placing rows of cans across the floor, gradually developing to dizzying speed as they moved, never once knocking over a can nor cannoning into one another. Then, slowly, slowly, it slackened pace, both dancers and musicians drifted from the space, until, at last, one lone figure lowered her arms and placed the last two cans silently on the floor, before also drifting away. Only then was the spell broken. As a community project, this was a success even before it premiered, since it drew in members of the public who might never have thought of dance before, let alone participated in a performance. The capacity audience also testified to that success. Lively toddlers lay, chins on hands, watching every movement with delight. Older watchers were fascinated by the ways in which sound could be drawn from such basic, everyday objects. A violin bow evoked a strange wail; multiple, soft tapping was a ground base that echoed a pulse beat. The cans weren’t just a quirky idea, says Laura Murphy. They emphasised food, the need for it, the lack of it. An important aspect of the show was the use of tins of food as exchange for tickets. In the foyer beforehand, the trolleys piled high with offerings showed that the public had taken to this with delight. All the barter goods will be donated to Cork Penny Dinners, incidentally — another strong community link. Here is one arts project genuinely reaching out to the people.
Four dancers stand stiff and tall at the back of Millennium Hall, enigmatic as the forty cans arranged before them in a grid. For a moment they could be a piece of installation art or one of Clare Keogh’s promotional shots for Laura Murphy’s A Dance Concerto. A scraping sound breaks the spell, repeats and is followed by two bangs at even intervals. The audience arranged round the floor in the shape of a square bracket cranes its collective neck to see Irene Buckley kneel at one of four soundboards paper clipping the corners of the Hall. She pulls a can across the board, then another and bangs them back in place. A dancer enters the grid, bends and twists so her arms swing back and forth like misfiring propellers. As her hands pass the floor she lifts one and then another can, swings and then replaces them in time with Irene Buckley’s score. Tin cans generate A Dance Concerto’s music and movement. Two more dancers enter the grid and fall into conformity with the music and movement; there’s no room for personality on a production line. After a while they start to innovate, sneaking in little flourishes that foreshadow the invention to come. A syncopated rhythm creeps into the music as the dancers explore their freedom within the confines of the grid. A procession of black-clad figures contrasts the burnished cans; the intergenerational cast succumbs to the beat of a slave ship galley. An oriental riff introduces an eccentric humorous note. Somehow we failed to notice the first dancer leave the stage. A Dance Concerto plays smoke and mirrors with the audience, distracting them with one detail while developing another. The first dancer returns leading a group of children wiggling cans like jazz hands. Having established the core dancers’ playful fringe the piece goes into full production. The forty-forth cast member goes unaccredited in the performance notes. Stripped of their labelling the shiny cans are both familiar and unfamiliar, decorative objects and abstract ones. The cast uses them as binoculars, hearing aids and hats; the musicians as percussions, sound boxes and amps, yet we never forget their contents. All cans used in the performance go to Penny Dinners, along with those donated by the audience. The second section’s soundtrack stays just the right side of fingernails on the blackboard – a “tin-can-abulation,” perhaps. Tin cans are scraped, struck and bowed to create the soundtrack to a party at a steel mill, a “din can”. The jagged squeal emphasizes the dancers’ fluid movement, together and separate as a can and its contents. The third section mass produces the freedom explored in the second. Dancers fill the stage with hectic movement as if they’d a production deadline to meet. Forty three people work together with the precision engineering of a Swiss watch, their movement housed in the choreography’s shell. The audience could take the piece apart but never put it back together again. A Dance Concerto’s as mysterious as the contents of an unlabelled can. The cans become bombs as two lines of dancers bank away from each other like airplanes in formation. They remind the audience what industrialization can do when taken to extremes. When the music stops it’s as though the air had been sucked from the room. The diminishing cast seems to recede into the distance as dancers leave the stage one by one, floating off when the musical chord that anchored them snapped. Eventually we’re back where we started, with dancer Helga Deasy standing alone windmilling cans. A concerto is an ideal framework within which to explore the tensions and anxieties of mass production, beginning and ending as it does with an individual. Once she’s gone cans lie scattered about shiny and unruly as iron filings, by-products of some unknowable process. Choreographer Laura Murphy locates the humanity in mass production, and music where others hear noise. A Dance Concerto presents the humble can as never seen before.
A Dance Concerto (Kinsale Arts Week, July 2010)
Conceived and Choreographed by Laura Murphy Produced by Folded Productions (Laura Murphy & Ailish Claffey)
An outdoor community dance project based on Laban Movement Choirs from the 1930s for 12 Dancers & an intergenerational cast of 100 Community Members from Kinsale, Co.Cork, Ireland.