The Meeting

meeting

Wonderful moments in rehearsal today as dancers met some of the original women who's stories inspired Woman Stood Regardless. The women graciously made the journey up from Kerry to share their stories directly with the dancers and in return we shared some of the work with them. Incredibly charged performance by the dancers after hearing the stories and was a real privilege to have the women witness the work. Look forward to sharing the full piece with them in April.

The Beginnings (Dee Keogh)

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Dee Keogh (North East Kerry Development)

Woman Stood Regardless came from a combination of factors, mainly my desire to get the women's stories out there, into a public arena. I felt there was a richness of input from the women that was in danger of being lost. By that I mean the women all came with a story of their lived experiences. These were wide and varied, but there was a common theme that I felt was overlooked and that was an undervaluing of themselves and a lack of self-belief in all they had overcome. They were lacking in confidence on many levelvs, yet when we met and gathered together, they seemed to unrobe and loose a lot of the self fulfilled labeling. Unassuming in nature, these women had resilience beyond anything I had encountered. They 'got on with getting on...' I got in touch with a friend in Dublin, Niamh Byrne, who herself is a self-taught writer and poet now doing a Masters in "The Power of the Story.' It seemed like an ideal opportunity to invite her to Kerry to meet the women in Tralee and do a piece of work that could support the women to get their stories out.

There was no production in mind when we started, that was an organic happening. It has showed the importance of the Arts supporting and illustraing the nuances behind these women's lives. Most of these women were oral by nature, and writing was a real challenge for the majority. Yet I experienced an incredible range of talent, wisdom and resilience. I realised that we needed to find ways to capture these stories and document the women's lives in context. For some women the fact that they were making a conscious decision to take the time out to participate in the EWM course was in itself an achievement. I was struck by the multiple responsibilities the women carried. For some the course was the starting point for them to evaluate their lives, and unravel all the layers of the unspoken. We had no agenda in mind only to give the women an opportunity to tell their story and put it on paper. Niamh gave the women three words 'Woman Stood Regarldess' and each of the women wrote for 15 minutes unedited. The result, it was like we struck oil, we had found their gold within. It prompted us to stage an evening's performance of these monologues to depict the women's lives through a more appropriate lense and this took place at St. John's Art Centre, Listowel back in November 2012.

This coincided with Catherine Young, Dancer in Residence, who had worked with our EWM earlier in the year and had spoken at our previous women's conference about the power of movement and dance. I contacted Catherine to see if she would work with some of the younger women in the programme who did not want to write a monologue but wanted to participate in some way. Again we had no agenda as such (which seems to be the key) - just for the women to meet with Catherine and perhaps explore their stories through movement.

What has evolved from all of this and what has been incubating with dance artist, Catherine Young, for the past year has now grown into this evocative and captivating production Woman Stood Regardless. In the same way the women took those three words, Woman Stood Regardless, Catherine has taken the same three words and through her medium which is dance, and inspired by the women she worked with, she has created her own 'Woman Stood Regardless.' It is a testament to women and the many roles we hold and that regardless of all that happens in our lives, we still get back up and say 'Yes' to life. This is what Catherine saw in the women in Kerry and is universal in theme. The piece asks 'What makes us as Woman Stand Regardless amid the madness and mayhem, the magic and wonder of Life...?'    [Dee Keogh]

Siamsa Tire Residency (Feb 2014)

[Photos: Rhiannon McNulty]

 

Dee Keogh from NEKD, who originally brought me in to work with the women, came into day to watch a rehearsal. It made me curious as to how the women will receive the work. WSR was originally a writing project with the women responding to the the words 'Woman Stood Regardless' through the creation of the monologue series. My own work tends to be more non-narrative in nature so with this work I wanted to use the women's stories as a point of departure, as inspiration, but to leave the work open enough to allow the viewer to find their own way in. I wanted to explore the feeling states and areas myself and the women spend many hours discussing but not turn it into a specific narrative.  That is the beauty of dance, language and narrative can be limited but for me, movement allows for a lot more space and ways of seeing. Dee has agreed to write a blog to share where all this started which is great.

 Some insights into rehearsals - part 1 (space & theme)

 

Some insights into rehearsals - part 2 (dancers & bodies)

Dance Limerick Residency (Jan 2014)

[Photos: Maurice Gunning]

 

Initial Rehearsal Musings - Dancers and Space

After an initial movement research block on Woman Stood Regardless in 2013 where we established the main vocabulary for the piece, we finally started production on the work during our residency in Dance Limerick. The work for me was always going to be highly physical - so in selecting dancers, I wanted a cast of female dancers that were all very different from each other but all who were extremely capable physically. I worked with a number of dancers during the initial research on this work, all whom have left their mark on the piece and contributed in some way. Indeed during my initial work with the women in Kerry, we did quite a bit of movement research also, where a lot of the original motifs and gestures were established. So in a way working with many different women on the material has shaped it and given the movement different coloring and shading. I journaled quite a lot after my sessions with the Kerry women, distilled the essence of our talks down to a few key ideas and through the creative process, I keep coming back to these pages to keep me on track. There have been many months of additional reading and research around these ideas - enough material for a few pieces, so having these notes from the women's interviews keeps me grounded.

Our residency at Dance Limerick has finally allowed me to see the cast together. It's the first time they have all worked together and with me, so this period in Limerick in addition to devising the work is also a time for us all to get to know one another and each other's styles and idiosyncrasies. It will also allow me to see how their bodies work together and with the material. I like the fact that these four dancers will dance the same material slightly differently - each with their own persona. It allows me really see the person in the work and that interests me. As a choreographer, I am intrigued by how people move and try to be as attentive as I can to each dancers and really see them, what is it that brings them to life? what is it about them that interests me? In the four dancers in this work, Deirdre Griffin, Ivonne Kalter, Lucia Kickham and Mariam Ribon, they are all physically and stylistically different - and especially for this piece, I think that is important. Instead of imposing myself too much on them, there is a delciate balance in trying to find a middle path somewhere between my story and how I move and their own. So in a way we have to be in constant dialogue with each other to make that happen, so it's a real collaboration between all five of us.

It has been interesting to see how the space has begun to affect the work. Our initial research weeks were in DanceHouse, so in taking the piece into this huge renovated church space with high ceilings, large windows, stone walls and the chill of the January air,  suddenly phrases got larger and there was a lot more hurtling through space. The long strips of marlay laid length-ways down the church space vs across-ways, opened up sections of the work and really let the dancers rip through the space...which has naturally made its way into the work! It made me curious as to how the movement will be affected when we move into the Siamsa space and then back to DanceHouse in March.

Woman Stood Regardless (Introduction)

Welcome to "Woman Stood Regardless" - my company's new full-length work to premiere at the Project Arts Centre (Space Upstairs) April 4th & 5th,  the Firkin Crane (Cork) April 6th and Siamsa Tire (Tralee) April 11th.

The piece is a culmination of almost a year's research and was inspired by the true stories of remarkable women I had the privilege of working with at a women's support group at North & East Kerry Development. I initially met the women while working on the “Heroines in our Midst” project, where working with myself and writer, Niamh Byrne, the women explored their personal stories through writing and movement culminating in an evenings's performance of monologues and dance.

Struck by the intensity of what these women have been through in their lives, it left me asking the question "What makes people get back up when everything has fallen apart?" Their honesty, vulnerability and rawness, their resilience and determination in dealing with their afflictions, touched deep, and sat with me for a long time after. It set me on a path of inquiry to find truths we all can relate to from their intensely personal stories and has manifested in this new dance work. With an all female cast of four powerful international dancers: Deirdre Griffin, Ivonne Kalter, Lucia Kickham and Mariam Ribon, Woman Stood Regardless explores the depths of what the human condition can endure in a life-time, to find out what fuels us to keep going, to get back up?


Woman Stood Regardless is funded by The Arts Council, Kerry County Council & Siamsa Tire and supported by Dance Limerick, Dance Ireland, The Project Arts Centre and The Firkin Crane.

[Banner photos: Luca Truffarelli]      

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