Dublin Dance Festival

Dublin Dance Festival

As she places her coat on a hanger and takes off her boots before dancing NowHere, Divya Kasturi appears to shed her past upon entering a multilayered examination of her tradition and identity. Playing on the word “nowhere” as “now here”, she asks how our roots create our identity, and how much the past can really define the present. Projected images of city life are a backdrop to movement that blends traditional southeast Asian dance with contemporary vocabulary.

Within the noisy clutter that makes up our globalised world, Kasturi suggests there lies an essence of our identity that can only be found by a quiet exploration of our past. In Darshan, she focuses purely on movement as she recounts five stories of Shiva. Dancing within the Indian classical dance form Bharatanatyam, she performs with clear articulation, a sharp focus and perfectly enunciated gestures.

Although artistic director Julia Carruthers’s programme notes claimed there was no theme behind this year’s festival, memory and intransigence emerged for many choreographers. These ranged from the beautifully elusive Body and Forgetting by Liz Roche to Brokentalkers’ The Blue Boy, a highly emotional reflection on abuse within Catholic residential-care institutions.

Irish choreographer Liv O’Donoghue drew on her dancers’ real-life memories for the beautifully meditative extract from Prompted Breathless, while in softer swells choreographer and dancer Aoife McAtamney showed us a body remembering as her movements induced flashbacks and mixed emotions. In a compellingly sustained performance, she drew the audience into her personal world to piece together the fragments of her identity revealed by text and movement.

Audience engagement was at the heart of Jonathan Burrows and Matteo Fargion’s hilarious Cheap Lecture, which reflected on the nature of performance conventions. The choreographer and composer merged text, music and the barest amount of movement into a riveting set of musings that were obviously prepared with precision, but had the carefree delivery of a stream of consciousness.

Russian Alexander Andriyashkin was less subtle in challenging the audience to question their apathy in I Will Try. After dancing a short phrase he then asked the audience what was missing. Music, lights and drama were added on request, but what he was really asking was the audience to engage with his performance as participants, rather than as passive viewers. In the same programme, Latvian Dmitrijs Gaitjukevich presented male cliche after cliche in his clever and witty Girls’ Dreams, in which he was a preening heart-throb that had more belief in his pulling power than the audience did.

Philip Connaughton, is an experienced Irish dancer who made his choreographic debut in Embody. It was a self-effacing and perfectly conceived solo that revealed how fragments of movement placed together can affect each other. It was metaphoric for much of the dance seen at this year’s festival, which considered how we define ourselves in an increasingly fragmented world.