Reviews

‘McAtamney is a name to remember’ Irish Times

‘performances that are original and impactful’ Irish Theatre Magazine

SOFTER SWELLS

Broadway Baby, 2013, by Troy Holmes

Softer Swells by Aiofe McAtamney was the highlight of the three performances. Casual, plain clothed costume and the completely unaccompanied singing and choreography set the scene for an innovative, captivating and remarkable performance. The combination of McAtamney’s beautifully soft Celtic voice and her awkward, contorted movements was utterly spellbinding. Strange movements that were unfamiliar and jarring were simultaneously natural and sensual.

Singing comic updated Celtic songs that were clever and witty, her performance was fresh and exciting. McAtamney is clearly an amazingly skilled dancer, but it was her originality that made her shine the brightest.

Star rating: ★★★★

WHAT’S THE MATTER?

IRISH THEATRE MAGAZINE, 2013, by Rachel Donnelly

Purely and gloriously abstract, Dive/What’s The Matter? (a solo double bill) provides an interesting departure from the heavily-politicised work that has dominated much of the Fringe festival this year.
Choreographer Keren Rosenberg’s Dive mixes elements of shame, exaltation, and revulsion. Performing the work, dancer Dor Mamalia creates the impression of an inhuman, amoeboid creature as he manipulates his body muscularly around the floor contorting and splaying limbs, garbed in a shiny blue morph suit and putrid brown socks. The movement is often overtly sexual, with periods of lasciviousness quickly followed by indications of shame. In a repeated trope, Mamalia undulates his entire body, sliding his hands up and down his torso, only to abruptly cut the movement off with a fist shoved into his mouth as though silencing himself. The dehumanising effect of the costume (the performer’s face is covered) combined with the intermittently quelled moments of sexual expression create something dark and troublesome.

Where Dive is basely physical, Aoife McAtamney’s What’s The Matter? is an ethereal work that holds a sense of stillness at its core. Created in conjunction with performer Anna Karabela, the lines of the work are simple, both in terms of props and the energy used in performance. A free-standing stage-light, an hour-glass and a table frame the movement, which Karebela inhabits with a concentrated precision. Initially in total silence, the dancer extends her limbs, sometimes joint-first, sometimes fully, as though reaching out to fixed points in space. The tone is explorative and gentle, yet intensely focused. As an audience member, the experience feels like contemplating a consciousness contemplating its place in the universe.
In both pieces, the performers are assured and satisfyingly physical in their movement, while the choreography succeeds in achieving that elusive thing: distilling an aspect of human experience that can’t be verbalised.

Star rating: ★★★★

EGG CHARADE

Dublin Dance Festival Blog, 2013, by Rachel Donnelly

Pomegranates. Pricey, ruby-hued fruit brimming with seeds and laden with symbolism.

A whodunit. A detective story where the puzzle is always foregrounded.

Bowling. A sport in which a ball is rolled or thrown with a variety of aims.

Celery and lettuce. Green, watery vegetables.

‘Egg Charade’, a new piece choreographed and performed by Aoife McAtamney and Nina Vallon, contains all of these elements, plus a fan, some pot-plants and a couple of matching blond wigs. What’s at stake here? Well, fertility.

The piece begins on the cobbled street outside Project Arts Centre, the audience watching from the first floor windows of the theatre as the dancers, garbed in the wigs and some face-obscuring sunglasses, draw the lines of an intrigue with whispering, hand signals and ducking into doorways.

It all leads up to a surreptitious hand-off; a pomegranate is passed over and a single word, carried through the microphones to the listening audience, is uttered: ‘Yes’. With this opening sequence, fertility (symbolised by the pomegranate) is pictured as something desirable yet elusive and, somehow, shrouded in secrecy.

The choreography in the piece is marked by exertion, discomfort and slapstick humour. After a short interlude of celery and lettuce-munching to the tune of Henry Mancini’s ‘Charade’, the dancers engage in movement that is by turns violent and uncertain, and frequently presented with a sardonic edge.

Different stages of the journey to, and achievement of, conception are portrayed, some more literally than others. At one point, McAtamney and Vallon push their bodies into strenuous, sometimes gravity-defying and often hip-dislocating, positions. In another section, they sprint around the space, their initial glee soon giving way to exhaustion.

A lot of the movement is soundtracked by ragged breathing and signs of effort, with the exception of the last, almost beatific scene where the two dancers, naked save for running shoes and socks, joyously bowl the pomegranates down the length of the stage.

The work is about fertility, but specifically alienation from one’s own fertility. The performers riff on all the hoop-la surrounding the process of conceiving (so, eating vegetables, finding the labour pose that best suits you etc.), with the implication that what should be a fundamental and deeply personal event in one’s life has been transformed into a commodified activity with an added element of competition.

Though heavy with symbolism, ‘Egg Charade’ is a light-hearted treatment of a complex subject. The real strength of the piece, however, lies in McAtamney and Vallon themselves, performers who don’t shy from approaching the outlandish in the effort to access something meaningful.

THE SPINNER

Irish Theatre Magazine, April 2012, Rachel Donnelly

Who believes in fate anymore? There’s really no room for such a fanciful notion in this enlightened day and age, but it was a concept the ancient Greeks set a lot of store by. In DISH Dance Collective’s The Spinner, choreographer Aoife McAtamney takes the Greek legend of the three Fates, or Morai, and turns it on its head to present a commentary on ideas of mortality and free will.

In the original tale from Greek mythology, the Fates dictated the lifespans of mortals through the medium of sewing, spinning the threads of each human life and cutting them at the moment of death. In The Spinner, the Fates themselves are subject to the whims of some power outside their control, executing their various roles in what looks like anguish.

It’s an interesting inversion of the story, undermining the notion that there is an independent force somewhere steering this ship. The sure-footed performers at the centre of the piece (McAtamney herself with Anna Kaszuba and Juan Corres Benito) seem to be the manipulated, rather than the grand manipulators. Torsos are pulled off-kilter by invisible strings, hinged limbs jerk every which way and the general impression is one of involuntary action. At one point, the dancers fling themselves about on the floor as though prompted by electrodes, limbs smacking resoundingly against the stage with wince-inducing violence.

A gold-hued Tom Lane (he is clothed in a loincloth and gold spraypaint) provides live accompaniment on viola, the sometimes creaking, sometimes soaring twanging of the instrument wonderfully evoking the image of taut threads while building tension.

The three dancers alternate between performing as one bubbling, harmonious unit, and separately in jagged discord. These collective interludes, textured by unison changes in tempo, are beautifully paced, the dancers winding sinuously around one another with compressed movements, or expanding outwards with rounded limbs in gravity-less slow motion.

Often, the movement is eerily unearthly; Corres Benito stalks about the stage like a faun, whilst McAtamney spins like a top recalling a sewing machine spool. This otherworldly atmosphere is maintained throughout, until the close of the piece when the dancers suddenly emerge from their supernatural chrysalises and stand plainly as though really human, seeming for the first time capable of free action. The fates, who are supposed to dictate the destiny of mortals, are shown to be trammelled by their godly roles, whilst us mortals are in fact trammelled by the burden of free will.

The final scene is a stroke of genius, re-introducing a moment from the beginning of the piece where the three performers crowd around something invisible on the ground, crouching to draw whatever it is out. The lights go down on this tableau, dangling the prospect of eternal return before the audience.

The Spinner is rich with the possibility of multiple interpretations, which is what makes it so compelling. This, along with innovative choreography, completely engaged performances from the three dancers and Lane’s eerie score, make for a wonderfully unsettling experience. I’d say McAtamney and DISH Dance Collective are fated for greatness, if I believed in that sort of thing…

Rachel Donnelly is a Dublin-based freelance writer and editor

THE SPINNER

The Irish Times, September 2010, by Christine Madden

THE ANCIENT Greeks saw the three fates ­– Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos –­ as workers in a kind of celestial textile industry: one spun, the second measured out and the last cut the thread of life. In making a new work depicting these three deities, choreographer Aoife McAtamney infuses it with the spirit of another weaver remembered in Greek mythology: the spider.

Dancers Anna Kaszuba, Emma Martin and McAtamney fuse the godlike and arachnid in a work with all the delicate grace and meticulous ruthlessness of both. With its reedy, chafing melody and dampened pizzicato, the musical accompaniment on viola by Tom Lane perfectly complemented a piece that elicits both fascination and gnawing anxiety.

The spindly-limbed dancers evoked what they embodied beautifully, and would have been able for even more adventurous choreography. Which I hope we will see, in ample measure, from this promising young choreographer. The fates foretell a bright future here.

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