Dancing for inclusion and unity that respects difference

Dancers choreographed by Dylan Quinn will celebrate the non-adversarial nature of identity
Dancers choreographed by Dylan Quinn will celebrate the non-adversarial nature of identity

A novel new piece from the always inventive Eniskillen-based Dylan Quinn Dance Company aims to explore the fluidity of national and cultural identity through free-form, liberated choreography set to music.

Quinn, an award-winning choreographer, has thought deeply about the conceptual underpinning of his latest contemporary dance work entitled The Fifth Province, which is apparently based on an old Irish idea about a mythological place built around the hill of Tara, where kings of the time were said to congregate, leaving all their weapons and differences and quarrels about identity firmly at the entrance. They were no longer directed by their egos or desires or identities when they ventured into this space, where accommodation of others and friendship abounded.

“Former Irish president Mary Robinson described the fifth province as being to do with the place inside us that is open to the other,” explains Quinn, whose work is concerned to show co-operation of bodies that speaks to a non-adversarial concept of identity and difference.

“Here in Northern Ireland I feel we are very constrained by monolithic ideas of what identity is; we tend to think of people as falling on one side of the divide. What interests me is that broad discourse for what it means to be other.

“I want to explore the idea of accommodation with and connection to the other rather than negative ideas about division.”

So far so intellectually deep, but how does one translate such complex thoughts into workable choreography? Well, for a start, Quinn is not concerned to provide answers but rather to provoke audiences to think about identity and of course to be entertained by the lithe movements and accommodating contortions of bodies on the stage, all of it set to music and engagng with our common relationship to the land, not as belonging to one nation or another, but rather as soil and land mass that we all walk upon.

“We are of the soil and we must accept differences of identity through engagement and negotiation. For me this peace is really about the idea of not being threatened by the other and just having no sense of one winning at the expense of the other. We can coexist peacefully.”

Dylan admits that the dance work, which will show in Belfast this weekend before travelling to the Ardhowen Theatre in Enniskillen, has been a challenging one to produce, given its substantial freight of complex ideas.

“I engage with ideas through dance - it can be a way of exploring concepts rather than of providing answers.

“After all art is not about answers so much as trying to make people think and exploring themes.

“I see this very much as being about how different movement works and how different bodies move together in a confined space.

“Bodies move and contort to make shapes with others. This is free jazz, free movement, dance that is liberated and free-form.”

The Fifth Province, The Mac, Belfast, January 30-31 and the Adrhowen Theatre, Enniskillen, February 7.