Shimmying with Friends and Strangers. By Fearghus Ó Conchúir

In September 2011, Fearghus Ó Conchúir wrote the following article focused on his experience during the research he developed at Dance Gate Lefkosia Cyprus.

My abiding memory of the research time I spent in Nicosia was of the last evening spent with some of the delegates of the Dance/Body conference on the Turkish side of the city. We followed the academic Stavros Karayanni there to a cafe in a beautiful old square that once a month hosted a ‘pink party’ for gays and lesbians. There, Stavros danced a delicious, friendly belly-dance and I felt in that moment the embodiment of the conference theme: Dance/Body at the Crossroads of Culture.

Here was dancing where politics, gender, sexuality and ethnicity shimmied and swayed. And it felt good to be there.

My time in Nicosia was under the rubric of research module with modul-dance. Having used research at the Art Stations in Poznan and a residency at The Place to help me make my new work Tabernacle, I had originally intended that a research visit to Dance Gate in Nicosia would be part of that process too. It didn’t work out that way but when I was invited to speak at the Dance/Body conference, it made sense to combine it with a period of research there.

While I didn’t have a studio in Nicosia during that time, it didn’t matter. I was recovering from a knee surgery so couldn’t dance. Besides, having come directly from premiering Tabernacle in the Dublin Dance Festival what I needed was time to assimilate and reflect on that process. Doing it in such an stimulating context as the divided city of Nicosia, given that Ireland has its own history of division, helped many thoughts to settle in my head and opened up some new avenues for thinking. Arianna Economou of Dance Gate arranged for me to stay in a house directly on the green line that separates Greek Nicosia from what they call ‘the other side’ or Turkish-occupied Nicosia. Having a checkpoint directly outside my door, hearing the call to prayer from the Turkish mosques, seeing the rubble of bombed buildings and the guns of young soldiers reminded me how fraught the encounter with otherness can be.

And yet I was also delighted to find that the no-man’s land of the green line has created a haven for plant and animal life that has a protected corridor across divided Cyprus. There is space for growth and possibility in the fissures between people.

There were many practical benefits to being in Nicosia too. Because the conference was supported by modul-dance, there was a gathering of the partners there. It was a bonus to be able to meet many of those people to whom I’d scarcely had a chance to talk when we first gathered in Lyon last year. Because I spoke at the conference, I had an opportunity to explain a little more about what motivates my work and it felt that this extra information was useful in letting the partners get to know me. With the partners who are supporting the residencies and tour of Tabernacle in November, it was much more concrete to be able to talk through face-to-face the details that we have discussed by email a dozen times.

It was also inspiring to see the work of fellow modul-dance artist Alexandra Waierstall. The extract from Mapping the Wind that I saw made me want to understand her process and priorities. We’ve only just begun a conversation but it made me realise how keen I am to understand the work of all the MD artists and what a pity it is that the opportunity to do so is limited to these chance crossings. These opportunities for exchange between artists and MD partners are what I hoped would come out of modul-dance but it was luck that made them possible in Nicosia. The research module wasn’t supposed to turn out like that. I had intended to do it in the Spring. But having this time to think after an intense creation process, to be stimulated by the environment and the conference delegates, to meet fellow artists and MD partners was very beneficial.

I look forward to the next phase of modul-dance activity when we undertake residencies and presentations of Tabernacle this November at Mercat de les Flors, Kino Siska and The Place.

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