Tango and ballet classes in Limerick

Limerick Tangois holding beginners classes every Thursday at 7.30pm and for the more experienced, thereare improvers classes after at 8.30pm. The venue is the Ecotree Space on Thomas Street (opposite Tadhg Kearney Jewellers).On the second Saturday of every month, there is a tango social night—El GatoNegro. You can start any week and the price list is: Individuals, €10 and €15for couples. For more information, see www.limericktango.com;email limericktango@gmail.com.

Just Breathing is a dance arts company formed in late 2010 with the aimof promoting dance in Limerick. They are particularly interested in getting non-dancers interested indance, and provide a platform for new and emerging artists. They hope to make ballet a more accessible art formthrough a series of workshops, classes, photo projects and performances.It’s great to see a new dance company fill some of the void left by Daghdha. This coming Saturday, January 21, it will start two sixweek courses in ballet at Studio 21, 84 O’Connell Street, Limerick (under Café Noir).

The first is course is called Ballet:Power and Fitness and there’s no actual dancing involved! “Instead weuse ballet exercises in a low impact one hour long workout. The course willstart from the very basic principles like how to hold your posture in neutralposition to a very simple workout and will break down and explain each exerciseand counter it with stretches to train your muscles to develop in length andstrength. As you progress within the course the classes will become more fluidand as your stamina increases the exercise intensity will increase with you. Theclasses are based on progression and are a fun way of keeping fit, flexible andtoned.” This runs from 11.30am to 12.30pm.

The second is CompleteBeginner’s Ballet for Adults. This course is “for adults who never gotthe chance to do ballet as a kid or who always wanted to do ballet but neverdid for whatever reason. We really believe it’s never too late to startlearning any form of dance! Over the course you will learn the terms andexercises that ballet dancers use every day in their training. We’ll start at avery basic level and build things up gradually over the course.” Thisruns from 1-2pm.

Thecost is €60 for six weeks (€48 for 3rd level students/unwaged). A discount is available for anyone who signs up to bothcourses. Drop-in classes are available at a cost of €12 per hour. However,since courses are based on progression they would encourage you to sign up forthe six weeks to really get the most benefit out of the classes. For more information see justbreathingarts.blogspot.com or see the Just Breathing Facebookpage or email justbreathingarts@gmail.com.

The future of Daghdha Dance Company…

People are reacting with general puzzlement as to the future of Daghdha Dance Company, based in St John’s Church, in Limerick. I contacted the chairman of the board of directors last week, Karl Wallace, in the last 10 days and he told me that there would be an official statement issued soon but in case you (like me) are losing track of what has happened so far, here’s a recap.

On February 28, it was announced that the Arts Council had cut Daghdha’s funding by 100%. A statement was issued: “Daghdha Dance Company has been dancing differently for 23 years under the direction of founder member and original Artistic Director Mary Nunan, her successor Yoshiko Chuma and since 2003, the company’s latest Artistic Director, Michael Klien…Daghdha in the last eight years has carved out a niche for being daring, controversial, cutting edge, fantastically creative; and whilst moving from “favourite child to misfit” (Irish Times) always inspiring others to dance differently….We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our funders for their investment and commitment.”

Immediately, an online petition was launched—gathering 1,200 signatures so far—and Daghdha’s board sought to negotiate with the AC.

Daghdha held a farewell event, The Ponderous Counter-Spectacle Of Things Ceasing To Be, on March 26. The blurb for it stated that “Daghdha may have to close its doors, but not without celebrating the contribution of this special organisation to our lives as resident artists. The final grassroots event hosts many artists…”

A statement on March 28, said that the discussions with the AC did not “bear fruit” and all staff, including students on the Daghdha Mentoring Programme, had to made redundant. It also said that the directors “have taken the position that if it is not possible to have Michael Klien as Artistic Director then it is no longer possible to continue as a dance company”. It outlined plans to consult with a wide range of people on its future and “new vision”. The website currently says that another statement is “coming soon”.

Decline in funding
Daghdha was formed in 1988 by Mary Nunan and Teresa Leahy. It grew into a leading contemporary dance company nationally and internationally. The AC annual funding had been decreasing for several years; it was €160,000 in 2010 and €250,000 in 2009. The 2008 funding would have been around €340,000.

In 2009, the cut meant that Daghdha put on a reduced programme of activities. Klien was vocal on the issue, quoted in a local paper at the time saying: “We would like to express our distress and entrust that there will be a time when Daghdha will be officially acknowledged for what is has accomplished during this period…We will now restructure Daghdha according to our new economic reality.” In 2010, he said the AC was eroding their “artistic sovereignty” after the company’s funding was reduced to €160,000—a 70% decrease since 2007. “For three years the Arts Council has been actively manoeuvring to dictate Daghdha’s direction with a view to eventually avail of its assets to pursue their own vision, which, to our understanding, present unsustainable and locally irrelevant plans,” he was quoted as stating. Klien described the subsequent 2011 100% cut as “unjust”.

What now?
So, what will become of Daghdha’s base in St John’s Church? And what is the future for dance in Limerick?

The former church in St John’s Square became Daghdha’s home (after being based in UL) in 2004. A Government grant and independent fundraising covered the cost of the €1m refurbishment, which included a special sprung floor for dance. It’s a beautiful and atmospheric space, which has also hosted events such as the Cuisle Poetry Festival and the Eightball Productions ‘autumn:winter collection’ of gigs.

I spoke to city arts officer, Sheila Deegan, a few weeks after the initial announcement. She said that the city council holds the building in trust but Daghdha has a long-term lease on it. She added that although Daghdha’s artistic programme won’t be funded, the AC is committed to funding dance in Limerick. The council’s arts officials are waiting to see what form this will take but they still see St John’s Church as “a key cultural space” for dance.

My two cents
The company did excellent work giving classes to people with learning difficulties at the Garvey Enterprise Centre. Arising from this collaboration, The Love Spotters Dance Collective was formed by visiting Israeli choreographer, Daniel Vais, in 2005. It has performed all around Ireland and Europe. Daghdha established the innovative Mamuska Nights, which facilitated a “unique occasion to present and view evolving works, raw ideas, unrehearsed visions, trials and errors, short masterpieces, playful nonsense, first steps”. Daghdha eventually stopped holding them but the format has been used elsewhere. It also held some local events like family days and brunches.

Daghdha undoubtedly pushed boundaries with publications on choreography like Framemakers—Choreography as an Aesthetics of Change. It attracted “over 70 dance-artists to stay and make their living” locally. It ran the Daghdha Mentoring Programme (DMP) to allow dancers to do self-directed study into choreography and in early 2011 launched the very first MA in Choreographic Arts in partnership with LSAD (I’m not sure what will happen to that now). The company has a stellar international reputation and garnered a lot of critical praise. Daghdha’s achievements are many.

However, there are those that would question its high funding allocations, particularly in comparison to what other venues/organisations/artforms would get. According to a report by the AC on national arts audiences last year, 115,000 attended a contemporary dance performance once a year, or more often—out of 1.54m people who attended arts events once a year, or more often. To put this in context, 865,000 people went to a play once a year, or more often.

In my opinion, Daghdha had a tendency towards the esoteric. I wouldn’t go to contemporary dance often but I appreciate it most when it’s accessible to plebs like me. The last show I saw by Daghdha was Rolling, its contribution to the 2010 Belltable Unfringed Festival, and it didn’t impress (raw reaction here). I also went to a DMP performance once, which was possibly the zaniest event I’ve ever attended… and maybe the best €3 I ever spent. I could never be sure!

We are living in straitened times and no organisation is immune to cutbacks. I don’t think the AC makes decisions to cut like this lightly but it is sending a strong message that something needs to change. It would be a shame to see Daghdha go after 23 years. It is part of the cultural tapestry of Limerick and beyond. How it deals with this crisis will define its future. The AC is no longer the only funding outlet. With the set-up of the Fund It website, the public can make financial pledges towards projects and produce them. That’s a welcome addition, and something Daghdha could use for projects. The Dublin Dance Festival is currently using it for one element of the festival. The AC has also launched a promising, new funding scheme for dance graduates called Step Up.

If there is a dedicated audience for contemporary dance, they’ll put their money where their mouths are.

I’ll post on the upcoming statement when it is available and if you want to check out Daghdha’s past events, there are videos etc on the website.

Belltable Unfringed Festival: Rolling by Daghdha Dance Company

Friday night was a bit of mixed bag; the evening’s entertainment went from the bizarre to the sublime in about an hour flat.Being determined to see as much as possible in the five day programme, I decided to fit in an hour of ‘Rolling’, presented by Daghdha Dance Company, before I had to get to the 9.15pm show of ‘Memory Deleted’.

‘Rolling’ involved ‘Curator Chase Granoff working in partnership with numerous artists to present a unique night of experimental dance, performance and choreography, that promises to be thought-provoking and enjoyable’. The programme informed me that it was ‘completely undefined in its result…can take the shape of a chaotic playground, a happening, a performance, a political rally or an indefinable, previously unexperienced evening of sorts’.

I want to stress a few things first. (A) I know very little about dance as an artistic medium but I’m open-minded and willing to learn. Sher I’d try anything once (insert your own ‘that’s what she said’ joke >here<).(B) I didn't see the whole show, which was billed as 'approx. 2 hrs' although to be honest, I don't feel I would have given it much more time than I did. Leaving the beautiful restored church that Daghdha occupies down in John’s Square, I felt confused and kind of angry. Worst of all, I felt like a complete idiot, which I hate. To start, I didn’t get to see an hour of ‘Rolling’ because it started 20 minutes late. Being Ireland, nothing ever starts on time but that kind of delay shows a total disregard for the audience-most of whom showed up early and paid €10. The first contribution was a short film. Segments of several minutes included: a person sitting in what seemed to be a library, reading/working; barking greyhounds in racing traps and a young girl standing in what looked like a handball alley with the sounds of playing in the background. The message/aim was totally lost on me. Everything seemed vague and unconnected. As Carrie Bradshaw would pipe up around now, ‘I couldn’t help but wonder if I was missing something?’ The next involved two men. In the centre of the room were two boards with the letter Q on one and A on another. One read (real names have been changed ha ha) ‘X’s question for Y’ and the other, ‘Y’s question for X’. The boards were inside a circle of rope taped to the floor with a table, with a desk lamp in the centre. When the lights dimmed, one man was lying down and the other not. They proceeded to each light a red tea-light (you see them on graves) and place them at different points on the rope circle. They rolled what seemed to be a bowls ball across the circle to one another and changed the position of their candles. They sat down, switched on the desk lamp and picked up microphones. One asked the first question. I was listening but it was quite complicated and seemed to be about pre-school education. The ‘answer’ was for the other man to walk about three feet, super slowly, exaggerating each individual movement. This went on for a few minutes and he sat back down. He then asked his question, which was two paragraph’s long and touched on globalisation among other big words. Again, it was long-winded and hard to get your head around without it being written down in front of you. The ‘answer’ was an odd dance with a lot of kung-fu like hand and leg movements. They switched off the light and blew out the candles. Much like the film to start, the whole thing made no sense to me. It seemed to be a series of unrelated and indecipherable elements. I had to head off at that point but the overwhelming emotion was relief. In didn’t want to sit through any more and feel like didn’t get the explanatory memo, struggling to give it some kind of meaning or relevance. The two ‘performances’ seemed ridiculous. In my 20 minutes twiddling my thumbs at the start I had skimmed the booklet but of course, it was a hotch-potch of texts, random statements and pictures. I was seized by an urge to maniacally shout: ‘What the hell is going on here?!!!!’ and literally beg someone to explain it…not say ‘but it’s inexplicable, silly!’ Sorry, but there is surely a rationale at work somewhere. I like to think that art is about collective consciousness, shared experience and learning. This was like trying to read something churned from an Enigma machine when you don’t have any context or code. ‘Thought provoking?’ Yes. My prevailing thought was: I wonder is there any way to get those 45 minutes back? ‘Enjoyable’? Not on any level. What was it all about? No idea! And I think very few other people in that room felt enlightened. It made me wonder how many of us were pretending that it made sense? Speaking to a college friend on Sunday who had been to some previous Daghdha shows, she summed it up. The gist was: ‘I know we’re not experts by any stretch of the imagination but sometimes things like that make you feel really stupid, even though we’re no intellectual slouches’. To sum up, I’m not trying to be mean or take the piss but I was very disappointed with what I saw of the show. I thought it was over-indulgent and exclusive. Also, I know it takes many forms but there was a lack of dance that I could see. I’m sure something was being discussed but I thought there would be more ‘disco’ in the ‘discourse’, so to speak. Were you there? Did you understand it? Do you want to help me to understand? Answers on a postcard…