Public dance performances using climbing gear to explore personal connections

Crowds at the Ulster Museum and Europa Bus Centre this weekend will witness a physically challenging piece addressing isolation as part of the Belfast Children's Festival

This year, the Belfast Children’s Festival organised by Young at Art is celebrating its 20th birthday with a bumper programme of events for children and all the family. Dance is high on the agenda with performances by European, UK and Northern Irish companies. Horses comes to the Lyric Theatre courtesy of the Belgian company kabinet k. Swedish choreographer, Dalija Acin Thelander is bringing Sensecapes to the Crescent Arts Centre. There’s a Baby Rave for under fours at the Oh Yeah Music Centre, while at the MAC, children aged four to seven will experience different ways of Getting Dressed thanks to the Second Hand Dance Company and Cahoots NI will present Penguins in the guise of Roy and Silo.

The Belfast based company Maiden Voyage Dance are bringing a brand new piece to the festival designed for their Dance Exposed programme for public places – in this case the foyer of the Ulster Museum and the main thoroughfare at the Europa Bus Centre. Literally tied together with climbing ropes, harnesses and carabiner clasps, three dancers move around in a confined space in ways that help them figure out the connections between them.

Each for Other was created in just two weeks in January this year, when choreographer Jack Webb arrived in Belfast from Edinburgh to work with the dancers, Vasiliki Stasinaki, David Ogle and Hannah Rogerson. It was Webb’s first visit to the city but he was able to get a feel for the place by attending several events in the Out to Lunch festival.  

'It was a really beautiful two weeks,' he says. 'The dancers and I went to a sports shop and bought the climbing gear then we spent a couple of days getting used to the equipment, learning how to wear it and move around in it. From then on the piece evolved very quickly. The basic premise is that there is a lot of loneliness and anxiety around nowadays, particularly among young people. We set out to explore ways of escaping isolation by making connections and moving towards a shared understanding of what it means to live and work together.'

Watch a short clip of the performance below, recorded at January's Arts & Business NI Awards in Belfast.

The dance trio is made up of David Ogle who is from the Isle of Man but now lives in London; Hannah Rogerson from Kildare trained as a dancer in Tilburg in the Netherlands. Vasiliki Stasinaki graduated from the Greek National Ballet School in Athens, attended the Northern School of Contemporary Dance in Leeds, joined the Maiden Voyage Dance company and then moved to Belfast where she is now studying for an MA in fine art at Belfast College of Art.

Stasinaki describes how the piece presents a real challenge for her and the other dancers. 'It is very physical and has an edge and Jack did not want us to hide the difficulty or the risks we are taking. We use our hands to make precarious connections while linking and unlinking the ropes. We have to make quick decisions in order to get to the next point in the dance and the danger is that if we make a mistake we may get tangled up and the action will stop.'

The soundtrack for Each for Other was created by Argentinian composer Martin Devek, who now lives in Northern Ireland. He studied music in Buenos Aires and graduated with an MA in Computer Music from Maynooth university. 'I set out to make sounds that blend with the dance by folding one sound into another,' he explains. 'I use many percussion instruments, some recordings, some acoustic music and a lot of panning effects to convey an idea of the movement. Like Jack I am used to taking dark themes and creating something that is airy and hopeful and contemporary.'

Martin Devek

The artistic director of the Maiden Voyage Dance, Nicola Curry, a former dancer with Ulster Youth Dance, founded the company in 2001 and chose that name because she was a young woman entering new territory and breaking new ground in contemporary dance. She is excited by the idea that dancers may catch people by surprise in a public space: 'The Ulster Museum foyer is a beautiful space with a lift to higher levels and walkways that provide different viewpoints. On the ground floor we will lay down soft mats for the audience and, following the full 15 minute performance, children will have the chance to interact with the dancers and experience falling and floating and flying.'

Curry has also asked Kate Ingram of Sightlines NI, who is especially skilled at describing not only the dance movements but the emotions evoked by a performance, to record a commentary which will be available to those who are visually impaired.

Catch Each for Other at the Europa Cus Centre in Belfast at 11.45am and 1.30pm on Saturday March 10 and in the Ulster Museum foyer at 2.00pm and 3.30pm on Sunday March 11. There will be one further performance at the Market Theatre in Armagh on Wednesday March 14.