Floating on a Dead Sea (2021)


Dublin Dance Festival Winter Edition Nov 26-27 | Backstage Theatre



Originally due to premiere at Dublin Dance Festival in 2020, this work has been long in the making. In 2017, Catherine Young took her dance company to Palestine to perform her critically acclaimed work Welcoming the Stranger. Compelled by the experience, she returned in 2019 to find a way to share this overwhelming feeling of being lifted and held by the generosity and kindness of a people, in a place where nothing is normal. A place where everyday life, dreams and aspirations are stifled, basic rights denied, and lives lived unfulfilled.

With a cast of international dancers and stunning visuals by filmmaker Luca Truffarelli, this moving performance places us in the footsteps of ordinary Palestinians, allowing us to feel their enduring sense of injustice, urgency and need for action. A chance to look and listen more deeply, especially to those whose voices are often unheard.



the team
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Catherine Young
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Dancer collaborators

(LIVE) Salma Ataya, Vanessa Guevara, Amir Sabra 


Yousef Areh Sbeih, Abdallah Damra, Abdalwahab Hmidan, Ahmed Kullab, Ameed Sayeh, Mohammed Smahneh Original


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Original Music/Sound

Martin Scharer (Music Director & percusssion),  Alan Kelly (mixing & sound design), Jade O'Connor (vocals), Colm O'Snodaigh (Low whistle), Jon Sanders (Mandola), Fiona Sheil (additional sound design) 

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Lighting Design

Chielf Lx

Sarah Jane Sheil

June Gonzalez Izarte

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Hanna Slattne

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Film| Set design

Luca Truffarelli

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Production Manager

Line Producer

QLab operator

Ditigal Marketing

Mikee Longergan

Kristyn Fontanella

Michael Stapleton

Conall O'Riain

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Premiere 2021

Backstage (Longford) Nov 26 & 27

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Supported By:

Commissioned by Dublin Dance Festival. Co-presented by Dublin Dance Festival and the Abbey Theatre in association with Backstage Theatre. Funded by The Arts Council of Ireland | An Chomhairle Ealaíon, Backstage Theatre, Kerry County Council, Siamsa Tíre, and supported by Shawbrook Dance, Dance Limerick, University of Limerick & A.M. Qattan Foundation.



Salma Ataya (dancer) is a performer and choreographer. Growing up in Ramallah, she was first introduced to dance through Dabkeh (Palestinian traditional dance) and afterwards discovered contemporary dance through workshops delivered by international guest artists organized by Saryyet Ramallah Ramallah and the Ramallah Contemporary Dance Festival. Salma took part in local and international performances from 2012 to 2016. She has worked with Les ballets C de la B, directed by Alain Platel, performing and touring in Belgium. Soon after that she came to Ireland to study at the University of Limerick and in 2017 graduated with a MA in Contemporary Dance Performance.  After that Salma worked with John Scott’s Irish Modern Dance Theatre, Catherine Young Dance, Séverine Chavrier, Théâtre d'Orléans, Paris and Justine Doswell.

Vanessa Guevara Flores (dancer), Vanessa is a Dancer-Choreographer specialising in contemporary and traditional Mexican and African diaspora dance. She started her professional training as a dancer at the National School of Contemporary Dance in Mexico and continued her training in USA, Africa and Cuba. She has worked with Jose Agudo, Akram Khan (Opening Ceremony of London 2012 Olympic Games) Vocab Dance, State of Emergency, ACE Dance and Music, Ballet Nimba, National Company of Mexico, Heartbeat of Home (Riverdance), David Bolger (CoisCeim) and Gecko theatre. 

Jade O’Connor (vocals/spoken word) is an actor, singer and dancer. Her work can be found across various platforms including: tv, film, theatre, visual art and music. After graduating on a scholarship from Millennium Performing Arts, London, she began working and collaborating with various Directors, Artists and Theatre Companies. As a performer and creator. Including her own award winning theatre company FemmeBizarre. As a singer she has performed both nationally & Internationally. Jade is a singer, writer and collaborator on Floating On a Dead Sea.

Amir Sabra (dancer) is a dancer and choreographer, currently working as the director of Stereo48 Dance Company. Started as a break-dancer in 2008 and then joined Hawaieh dance group where he represented Palestine with them in several dance contests in Denmark, Belgium, and Jordan. In 2015 joined the Belgium-Palestinian dance piece “Badke”, a co-production between Le ballet c d la b (Ghent), KVS (Brussels), and A.M Qattan foundation (Ramallah). In 2017 he worked as a dancer and rehearsal manager with Ya Samar Dance theatre (New York\Palestien), and was a dancer at “Emprint” a piece by Pockemon crew (France). He has choreographed five dance pieces with Stereo48 dance company: Hiphopgees 2017, Till-Spring 2018, Hiphopgeez second edition 2018, Journey to Jerusalem 2019, False Awakening 2020.

Jon Sanders (Mandola) is a leading exponent in bassouki, Uke and drop D guitar with 4 critically acclaimed solo albums to his name. For 25 years he has collaborated with artists around the world, blurring the geographical boundaries of musical genres, a skill Irish Times music critic Siobhan Long described as “quantum leaping”. Jon is known for his diversity and versatility on his instruments, innovatively customising them to create vast soundscapes, a gesture of his work with the soundtracks of Catherine Young’s dance projects. With nearly 4 million streams on Spotify, Jon “joyfully” brings his soundtrack success to Catherine Young’s ground-breaking latest show.” www.jon-sanders.com

Martin Schärer (music director/percussion), originally from Switzerland, living in Ireland since 2003, is a percussionist, performer, teacher and composer. He has trained with leading percussionists and music educators including Tomas Ramos ‘El Panga’ Ortiz and Louis César Ewande. He has played with many different ensembles and in various genres over the years in Ireland and internationally and has composed music for dance and theatre. Martin is working with Dancer/Choreographer Catherine Young since 2006 as percussionist, musical director and composer.

Hanna Slättne (dramaturg) is a freelance dramaturg, researcher, theatre-maker and facilitator based in UK/Ireland. She works across dance and theatre performance, XR and immersive audio as a maker and dramaturg and facilitates interdisciplinary and international artists development programs. Floating on a Dead Sea is her second production with CYD. In 2016 she received the Kenneth Tynan Award for Excellence in Dramaturgy and in 2017 an Elliot Hayes Award special commendation, for her work on the immersive audio play Reassembled Slightly Askew by Shannon Yee. She is a co-founder of the Dramaturgs' Network. www.hannaslattne.com

Luca Truffarelli (Film/Set) is a freelance photographer and video maker based in Dublin. Since 2011 he started experimenting and challenging himself in the field of visual arts. Over the past few years he has been involved in contemporary dance and theatre works as a photographer/video maker, visual/set designer and artistic collaborator.



Photos: Luca Truffarelli













Join some of the creative team from Floating on a Dead Sea for a panel discussion led by dramaturg Hanna Slattne as they share insights into the process of creating this new work as part of DUBLIN DANCE FESTIVAL DIGITAL CAPSULE.

Catherine Young (choreographer), Luca Truffarelli (filmmaker), Salma Ataya (dancer/ Sareyyet Ramallah Dance Company) and Vanessa Guevara (dancer) share their experience of being in Palestine, how this has shaped the work and with current restrictions, how the work will evolve from here. They are also joined by Palestinian choreographer Amir Sabra from Stereo 48 Dance Company who shares his own insights in creating work in Palestine under occupation.

Watch here

Funded by: The Arts Council, Kerry County Council & DDF