Interview: Liv O'Donoghue, dance artist, maker and curator


Dance artist Liv O'Donoghue talks about her latest work AFTER (which will be featured at the Dublin Fringe Festival in the Project Arts Centre from September 7th to 15th ) and print and online magazine DRAFF, of which she is a founder member.

Q. Can you remember your first experiences of dance and where your interest in it came from?

There were ballet classes held in our school hall after school. When I was about 5 or 6, I remember seeing the girls putting on their leotards and chiffon skirts and just thinking, “Wow, whatever that is, I want to do it.” So, I joined. It took a few years to convince my mum to buy me the gear though. I’m really tall, and was always growing at a phenomenally fast rate, so she wanted to see if I would stick with it. Photos of me from those first few years show a row of perfect little girls in baby blue ballet outfits, and then me… a good foot taller, lanky and awkward in a tracksuit. It didn’t matter though, I loved it.

Q. Where did the inspiration for AFTER come from?

I started thinking of AFTER around the end of 2016, when the world really seemed to shift on a political axis that I found hard to reconcile. The fear that I was feeling seemed to be so widespread and collective, and personally - maybe I’m a pessimist - I genuinely I feel like the world as we know it is irreversibly changing and the end really is inevitable.  Making this show is a way of me confronting my - our - very real fears around that. This fear is especially in relation to ‘the unknown’, and in a way, literally going through the process of imagining the end is a way of me confronting it. I decided to really imagine how the end of the world might look or feel through the eyes of two characters. How would we react, how would we behave, what would we do? In the same way, through bearing witness, I feel like we’re preparing the audience for the inevitable too.

It’s not all doom and gloom though, I can confirm there’s plenty of lightness and humour at the end of the world too!

AFTER from José Miguel Jiménez on Vimeo.

Q. DRAFF is a unique digital and print magazine, why did you set it up, and how do you fit it in with all your other work?

DRAFF came about through conversations I was having with friends about wanting a platform to publicly share and discuss our work in more meaningful ways. We also realised that we had all this material that would get left behind in the process because it might not fit into the final piece, and that’s often a shame because you really get attached to ideas. So, we wanted to find a way to track and share this process material for other artists. That’s the real crux of our desire there - other artists. Getting to hang out and talk about ideas with some of our favourite artists, as well as meeting new artists that I’d never otherwise have heard of. That’s been the real joy of the project. We’re now growing bigger so it’s becoming a little harder to fit it in around my own work, but there are three of us so with lots of advance planning and support we manage it. 

Still from documentary film featured in AFTER by Jose Miguel Jimenez

Q. Who are your own favourite artists, in any medium? 

Right now,I’m really into Susanne Kennedy’s work. She’s a German theatre maker who is really playing with form. I think coming to theatre from choreography I really appreciate that in her work, narrative doesn’t play such an important role in the hierarchy of action on stage. She works with a new balance of power between bodies, objects and machines with an aesthetic that is beyond the human. The work is sometimes challenging and opaque, but there’s always a great payoff. 

I’d also mention the artists I’m in the studio with at the moment. I feel incredibly lucky to have gathered such a great team. This week we’re focussing on video and sound ahead of the full cast arriving. AFTER features a documentary film by José Miguel Jiménez that we filmed on location in Arctic Norway and southern Austria. It was such an easy and inspiring process to work with José. I think our instincts are very in tune and I’m really excited for audiences to see what we’ve made. Our sound design is by Kevin Gleeson, who somehow manages to transform my oblique ideas and references into really beautiful music. He’s an amazing interpreter, and I don’t know where we’d be without him. 

Q. Have you any advice for aspiring dance artists?

Immerse yourself in life. Dancers tend to become quite singular. Most, like me, started when they were very young and the discipline becomes a way of living. There’s something beautiful in that rigor but for me, I think the best dancers and makers are the ones who have lived beyond it. There’s an extra spark there. 

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