IETM – Dublin 2013

I have returned from a whirlwind, fly-by-night return trip to Dublin for the bi-annual gathering- IETM and let the dust settle. It took a bit of Google sleuthing, but the acronym stands for Informal European Theatrical Meeting. My impressions in hindsight have hopefully taken on a sharper clarity. Dublin really turned on the Irish charm with a four day extravaganza focused on contemporary performance, complete with formal general meetings, forums, and dedicated performances, while also running concurrently with the Dublin Fringe Festival.

If I am crestfallen by the local downfall of dance presentation, it seems it’s nothing compared to Greece who no longer has an official theatrical agenda, ridding the position of national minister for cultural affairs, or Bulgaria which has an odd policy of funding performances based on match funding for bums-on-seats applicable in certain recognised theatres only.

The burning issue at hand is how to reconcile the commodification of art in terms of financial turn over. It is a sad prospect, as a contemporary dance maker, to eschew innovation and honesty for maximum crowds. Until I realise we already do that with growing initiatives in favour of large participatory events in lieu of specialist practices (see recent blog, The Demise Of Dance This Spring).

Many of the local Irish artists featured in the forums and events have recently returned. Times of crisis makes for good artistic fodder. One such performer Emma Fitzgerald, came back to challenge her right to perform naked and the greater female perception as either sex object and/or baby maker in a fiercely religious country. She relayed the statistics of hits after being picked up and tagged by several porn sites running into the thousands in comparison to the handful of views via the original Judson Church (NYC) upload. Finally resulting in the withdrawal of the original video from the site and an ammendment to exclude further inclusion of nudity.

The actual dance performances on offer were universal in theme and dealt with intimate human relations. Fast Portraits choreographed by Liz Roche, was what the title suggested, a series of stop start group gestures and postures around a singular chair as a prop. The floor was lit with a series of quadrangles, some oblong and some squat square which appeared and intersected. There were sporadic slow motion video images to accompany the join the dot montage which was preceded by a solo danced by the choreographer introducing the chair.

This was a precise, if maybe a little didactic, choreographic statement, competent bodies intermingling with deliberate assuredness.

The next piece Body Duet, choreographed by John Scott started with some naff, slightly robotic monosyllabic, one word dialogue and I grew nervous. I had high hopes for Dublin, the brash interaction on the street reminding me of home.

Thankfully the performance did pick up. As the relationship disintegrated, the messy yet masterful movement became more edgy and addictive. The clumsy introduction of an iPad facilitated the all too abrupt and hurtful familiar repartee of the cheating and cheated.

The movement reads like the scripted, every nuance of this narrative recogniseable without being too predictable. Of the two pieces, this was riskier and made more satisfying for it.

Maybe the dance on offer wasn’t cutting edge, lacking the urgent immediacy addressed in the IETM forums, but it lent a strong sense of stability, just the right dose of theatrical medicine. I will have to wait for the Dublin Dance Festival for a more diverse program to really make assumptions. Might’ve been unfair as there was too little to judge in any meaningful comparative fashion.

Again the choreography was hidden amongst  other disciplines. Dublin’s Fare City (visual artist Michelle Brown) a curated taxi cab ride by the cities finest to half finished landmarks which heralded the downfall of the famed ‘Celtic Tiger’ that was the financial/ real estate boom. Samuel Beckett’s  All That Fall presented by Pan Pan Theatre with a magical lighting design including 100’s of light bulbs suspended from the ceiling like a constellation, fierce rain or whirling dust bowl, equipped with individual rocking chairs for 70 and  illustrated children’s carpeting.

For all the tight schedules jammed packed with constructive strategies, the conference was as the title suggests, best at its most informal, one on one over a few drinks in one of the many nooks where tight passionate bonds were forged.

Links to Artists mentioned above:

Company Fitzgerald and Stapleton

Choreographer Liz Roche

Stay tuned for a wrap of the week that was- Birrang, a special week long lab dedicated to the growth of NSW indigenous dance, facilitated by Shane Carroll (still underway as I type) and my next foray to the emerald isle for a sneak peak experience of Dublin Dance Festival where I have scored a place in workshops (Ultima Vez) and to see some of the best performances Europe has to offer.