— DarinaNíChuinneagáin (@DarinaNiC) January 27, 2016
It was a dream, and an honour to see my TG4 Splanc! film Dance Emergency/ Damhsa na hEigeandala screened larger than life on the magnificent Walter Reade Theatre’s 32 X 18 foot screen on February 12th, opening night of the 44th Lincoln Center Dance on Screen Festival. In the music of the Irish language (with subtitles), Erina Brady’s forgotten story beamed out, to an esteemed audience of New York’s most in-the-know dance on screen afficionadoes. They wondered how they had never before heard of this unknown modern dance pioneer, and were thrilled to savour seldom-seen Isadora Duncan style movement (choreographed by Jessica Kennedy). One Dance Films Association stalwart told me that many felt the spirit of the founder of the Dance on Screen Festival was in the house, as she was a big Isadora Duncan fan.
I was over-awed and a little daunted to find myself sitting next to Pat Birch, legendary choreographer of Grease (and many more iconic productions), who was being honoured by the festival at a Q & A preceding my film. She laughed and gasped as the unlikely tale of Ireland’s Irish-German Modern Dance pioneer unraveled on the big screen, and when the credits started to roll turned to me and said “That’s wonderful”. I couldn’t imagine higher praise, from a better source. The audience were spellbound by Olwen Fouere’s uncanny embodiment of Erina Brady, intermixed with archive footage by Liam O Laoghaire of Brady herself; Jessica Kennedy’s choreography, and the exciting, little known Bohemian world of Emergency Dublin, to which the late Patrick Scott bore first-hand witness. They were delighted to hear Declan Kiberd’s expert commentary, as well as to hear the heartfelt testimony of Erina Brady’s family members, and the myriad of other contributors and wonderful dancers. Thanks to support from Culture Ireland, co-curator of the Festival, Liz Wolff, hosted a fascinating Q & A afterwards, and I was heartened by the level of genuine interest and engagement with the film from the packed audience. Erina Brady had always wanted to bring her work to North America, and here it was finally happening, albeit 70 years later. A truly wonderful experience that will hopefully open more doors to share the film, and Erina’s story further.
The rest of the 44th edition of the prestigious Lincoln Center Dance on Camera festival was a joy to behold, from dance historical films on Bessie Schoenberg and Ted Shawn to experimental shorts and the closing film “Since Feelings are Facts”, on the great Yvonne Rainer, who I had the good fortune to do a “Trio A” workshop with in Dublin’s Dance House while Laurie Uprichard was director of Dublin Dance Festival a few years back. Thanks to all who made this inspiring experience possible, from Culture Ireland who supported my trip, to Galen Bremer, Liz Wolff, Joanna Ney, and the entire Dance on camera team and the panel who selected my film for the festival. It was also great to get the opportunity to connect with my fellow Dance Films Association Members, and long may our association last!
While in New York I also got to give a talk entitled “Contexts: Who Was Ireland’s First Modern Dancer?” to Jean Butler’s class at NYU’s Gluckman Ireland House, a lovely, engaged bunch of students who had come to see Dance Emergency/ Damhsa na hEigeandala at the Dance on Screen Festival. It was a pleasure to have the opportunity to share my ongoing research with these bright young people.
In an instance of good timing, I also got to attend Dance Emergency interviewee John Scott’s New York premiere of his wonderful show “Lear” at New York Live Arts, and to intersect with none other than the brilliant Olwen Fouere herself, who arrived to the big apple to install her film “Cassandra” at Irish Arts Center in the 2016 Centenary programme “Proclamation”. I also saw Dan O’Brien’s interesting play “The Body of an American” at Cherry Lane Theater in the fabulous West Village where I stayed with a good friend (I’m blessed to have some of those in NYC), for a few days. And I learned about the latest phenomenon to take New York (and Obama himself, who has seen it twice so far) by storm, the hip hop musical, “Hamilton”. Check it.
Oh, and there was also this UCD Alumni Event at Mutual of America, where I met many a happening UCD Alumnus, including the Irish Ambassador to America, HE Anne Anderson:
And now I’m home, energised and inspired by Dance on Camera Festival and the eternal creative Mecca that is New York City. Thanks again to Culture Ireland for supporting my trip, and the telling of Erina Brady’s extraordinary lost tale to North America. #IAmIreland