• Chris O'Rourke

Dublin Theatre Festival 2022: How to be a Dancer in Seventy-two Thousand Easy Lessons


How to be a Dancer in Seventy-two Thousand Easy Lessons. Image by Fiona Morgan

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Music from a ghetto blaster brims with cinematic menace. Looking like rejects from Reservoir Dogs, Michael Keegan-Dolan and Rachel Poirier sit opposite each other. Between them lies a large wooden crate. Slowly, cigarette dripping from her lips, Poirier fetches an angle grinder and cuts off the lock, tossing the lid to one side. Opening a Pandora’s box of memories and dreams, of facts made fiction, the past made present. Yet the man with the egg from Guatemala warned Keegan-Dolan not to look back. Too late now. Unpacking cavity bricks, a disco ball, clothes and other miscellaneous prompts, treasure looks thin on the ground. But in How to be a Dancer in Seventy-two Thousand Easy Lessons looks can be deceiving. This coming of age journey of dance, text and theatre, being a treasure trove of large and little joys.

How to be a Dancer in Seventy-two Thousand Easy Lessons. Image by Fiona Morgan


A pigeon toed, late developer with a soft-spoken defiance, choreographer Keegan-Dolan initially resembles the lovechild of David Bowie and David Byrne. Relaying a series of chronological anecdotes, incident follows incident compositing a story with many blanks. Dancing like a queer, his first sexual experience, the hatred of the Irish in Eighties Britain, and a yoga teacher that changed everything. Including awareness of the 72 thousand nadis in the body, like the meridians of acupuncture. Anecdotes and images come hard and fast, covered in a cacophony of costuming by Hyemi Shin, whose versatile set facilitates lots of suggestive imagery. Which Poirier and Keegan-Dolan exploit to the full, creating a parallel universe from music, props, story and movement.

How to be a Dancer in Seventy-two Thousand Easy Lessons. Image by Fiona Morgan.


Under Poirier and Adam Silverman's direction, action unfolds like flicking through old Polariods forgotten at the bottom of a draw. Instantly new, familiarly old, deeply recognisable, Keegan-Dolan's journey proves remarkably unremarkable. That could have been anyone, it seems, except it isn't, and it couldn't. If there's an occasional disconnect between text and theatre, more often than not the juxtaposition of zany image and direct speech yields rich, imaginative possibilities. Rhythmically, longer sequences can feel like they overstay their welcome: the unpacking of the crate, the final image. Even a superb, graceful solo by Poirier to Ravel's Bolero, defined by patterns of turning, flailing, constantly reaching and restarting, feels long against the predominance of shorter pieces. Unlike the hilarious musical hall moment expressing anti-Irish sentiment which is wonderfully executed.

How to be a Dancer in Seventy-two Thousand Easy Lessons. Image by Fiona Morgan


Like a packed suitcase for a long holiday, How to be a Dancer in Seventy-two Thousand Easy Lessons has a couple of items you really don’t need. By the end, who cares; turns out it was a great holiday anyway. As with Teaċ Daṁsa's Swan Lake/Loch na hEala and MÁM, How to be a Dancer in Seventy-two Thousand Easy Lessons is a suffusion of joyous, life affirming energy given physical expression. You might dismiss such ideas as new age clap trap, but here's the thing: when Poirier and Keegan-Dolan take to the stage it's all energy and synergy. A vibrant, uplifting, infections energy. So strong, you'll dance while sitting still.


How to be a Dancer in Seventy-two Thousand Easy Lessons by Michael Keegan-Dolan, a Gate Theatre and Teaċ Daṁsa'co-production, runs as part of Dublin Theatre Festival 2022 at The Gate Theatre till October 8.


For more information visit Dublin Theatre Festival 2022

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