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Meet a woman who's dancing her way out of feeling like an 'outsider'

Trad musician Caomhín O Raghallaigh is taking part in a new show by an Irish choreographer.

Lo Res_TRL7720_Liv O'Donoghue_Hear me sing your song_landscape_Credit_Luca Truffarelli_web Source: LUCA TRUFFARELLI

CAOIMHÍN O RAGHALLAIGH is one of traditional music’s leading lights, and for his latest project he has teamed up with two dancers and a fellow musician to work with one of Ireland’s most promising young choreographers.

What’s intriguing about this project is that O Raghallaigh (The Gloaming and This is how we fly) and Bryan O’Connell (Si Schroeder) have no background in dance – but dancer and choreographer Liv O’Donoghue has chosen them to star in her latest show, Hear Me Sing Your Song.

The collaboration sees O’Connell and Ó Raghallaigh also create the music for the piece, while dancing with Maria Nilsson Waller and Clare Brzezicki.

Adding a further layer of interest to the show is the fact it is based on O’Donoghue’s experiences as growing up half Irish and half Norwegian.

with raised arms

And then there’s the cameo performance that each show will feature, bringing yet another interesting element to the Hear Me Sing Your Song.

The show will be performed alongside the duet With Raised Arms (starring O’Donoghue and O’Connell) at the Project Arts Centre in Dublin from 9 – 12 July.

This is the show’s second time on tour, but its first ‘proper’ appearance on an Irish stage. Last year, they presented an early stage of it at Project Arts Centre, before taking it on a mini tour of Austria and Italy.

LO RES_TRL7917_Liv O'Donoghue_Hear me sing your song_Landscape_Credit_Luca Truffarelli Source: LUCA TRUFFARELLI

“In a way this is its real premiere, or its Irish premiere at least,” said O’Donoghue.

I feel like in a way I’ve given the piece away to the performers – it’s really their show now. They put so much of themselves into the work. They were working with their own memories and ideas of things.

While the two trained dancers in the show might have “muscle memory”, O’Donoghue mused that it could be different for O’Connell and Ó Raghallaigh.

Why create a show with two musicians?

“I wanted to have a show where I worked with some dancers but also some untrained dancers,” said O’Donoghue.

“Caoimhín and Bryan had never danced before and I was interested in making a show that is more about people and something more human than a really beautiful ethereal dance show,” continued the choreographer.

“I wanted to see some vulnerability and as a way for the audience to see something of themselves.”

The cameo performer brings a further interesting element – again, they aren’t professional dancers.

They come in, do four hours of rehearsal, and then take to the stage with the rest of the performers. Their presence means that the show “would never settle in a way – there’s always a strange presence or another person. It keeps the cast on their toes”.

Family story

Hear Me Sing Your Song is based on O’Donoghue’s family story.

“I’m Irish-Norwegian – my mum’s Norwegian and my father is Irish,” she explained. “I wanted to make a piece that addressed that duality of having a mixed heritage. Of not feeling here or there, feeling like an outsider to an extent in both places.”

The piece explores a place that has no culture, and asks: “What would happen if you dropped strangers there. How would they work together, live together, communicate? What would the language be? How would those people fit together?”

The dancers work through the tensions of different people trying to work things out together, which in a way reflects how they are working in real life.

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“They had to work out this unity amongst themselves. This cameo joining them every day is constantly keeping this alive,” said O’Donoghue.

When asked how dance helps her to explore issues like identity, home, and place, O’Donoghue answered:

I think there’s something about the ambiguity of movement or dance that everybody sees it slightly differently. With a good dance show the audience feels that they can recognise something about themselves.

She added: “You might be able to see something through this physical struggle or vulnerabilities – you can reflect something of yourselves onto the movement or ideas”.

For her, dance and movement is a universal thing, and having people in the show who aren’t trained dancers serves to highlight this.

A second piece being performed before Hear Me Sing Your Song is With Raised Arms, which stars O’Donoghue and O’Connell. O’Connell plays a theatre technician (a former job of his) who interrupts the show put on by O’Donoghue.

Source: Liv O'Donoghue/Vimeo

O’Connell acts as a bridge between the audience and people.

Dancing isn’t a lucrative career, and “it’s a tricky job to stay on top of and earn a living”, said O’Donoghue. She does this by taking on a range of projects, and said “you have to be willing to do everything and able to do anything”.

But despite the cutbacks and hardships, she said there are exciting things happening in Irish dance, with “really cool things happening” and supports like DanceHouse available.

There’s a “brilliant infrastucture” there, and once that’s there, “people are willing to make the work happen”.

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