12 Minute Dances
Ebb and Flow
There’s a sense when watching Liz Roche’s revival of her outstanding 2009 work “12 Minute Dances,” of walking through an art gallery. Indeed, Roche is no stranger to galleries as her recent work, “Totems” makes plain. In “12 Minute Dances,” comprised of five short pieces inspired by the paintings of Mark Rothko, Roche channels the ebb and flow of movement and energy, working with dancers singularly and collectively, to craft pathways of stunning simplicity and beauty. A work imbued with a meditative sense of focus, strength and stillness, “12 Minute Dances” arrests your attention from its very first moments and never lets go. Throughout, flashes of colour inform Roche's beautifully formed and flowing physical images, as six dancers, and a musician, convey moments of power and vulnerability in five pieces as stunning as they are moving.
In the first piece, a dancer’s sculpted body is dressed by her fellow dancers, like a young child being prepared for bed, beginning a sublimely dreamlike sequence. Here the dancer is as much acted upon as being an agent of her own design. Like a wind-up toy, she is frequently prompted or spurned on by another cast member, or by Roche’s active audience, the latter being a well-worked device that cleverly establishes a deeper connection between the audience and the work. Throughout, there’s a gentle stop/start flow, a sense of stress and release, as dancer Cliodhna Hoey performs with exquisite grace while Sean MacErlaine plays saxophone live on stage.
The second sequence, the first of two back-to-back and contrasting duets, is one in which a poignant sense of reaching and distance is beautifully evoked. Here, Liv O’Donoghue, displays a beautifully balanced interplay of strength and vulnerability, as does her partner Miguel Do Valo, as they craft a disjointed duet where moments apart give way to an uneasy intimacy. Frequently, Donoghue is propelled backwards, as if by a magnetic force, attracted and repelled in the same instant, always returning for reconnection. Connections occur, yet are short lived, as both dancers find moments of synchronicity before once again separating into their own distinct worlds.
The third sequence, a duet with Ryan O’Neill and Katherine O’Malley, cranks up the pace and energy as both dancers engage in a wonderfully, visceral performance, like two fighters, weaving and flowing, in a highly charged display defined by a competitive togetherness. Here, both are acting on, and acting upon, each other, in a delightful playful duel, intimate and powerful, with never a slack moment.
The forth sequence sees the previous two duets converge to form a quartet, in what looks deceptively like the simplest and cleanest, choreographically, of the five pieces. Patterns are repeated here more often, but gradually it becomes clear that Roche is crafting a whole range of subtle interactions. At times it feels like a group piece, other times a series of separate duets, and at others as if each dancer is engaged in three duets simultaneously. Its richness, depth and complexity is based on a purity of flowing choreographic simplicity, something at which Roche excels, and stunningly suggests endless interpretive possibilities.
The final sequence, a quintet which sees the extraordinarily gifted Ailish Maher join Roche’s duet of duets, develops a wonderful sense of flow and release, negotiating moments of subtle resistance, like water working its way around rocks mid-stream, to flow onwards and free. Always, a playful energy informs the piece, but within a strict, choreographic rigour. Patterns, groupings, solos, duets, all flow and interflow with sublime simplicity before quietly departing.
Few choreographers can capture, or convey, the flow of movement and energy as well as Liz Roche. By the end of “12 Minute Dances” you know you’ve witnessed six outstanding dancers performing a very special sequence. “12 Minute Dances” marks Liz Roche Company’s first year as Company–in-Residence at The Civic Theatre, Tallaght, as well as their new relationship with the Cork Opera House. It won’t be around for long, so travel if you need to to see this truly wonderful piece. For “12 Minute Dances” is dance at its very best, and it is both a privilege and a pleasure to witness.
“12 Minute Dances” by Liz Roche Company played at The Civic Theatre, Tallaght, on September 21st and 23rd. It tours to the Cork Opera House on September 28th