This 2021 Irish documentary perhaps has done wonders with a person that had little tolerance for improvisational dance. That person is me.
The documentary directed by Pat Collins in a very hands-off fashion chronicles the creation and rehearsal of an Irish production of improvisational dance by Irish choreographer Michael Keegan-Dolan and his dance troupe of 12 international dancers and seven musicians from the European classical collective stargaze with Irish traditional concertina player Cormac Begley. They have 8 weeks to prepare for a new production to be shown at the Dublin Theatre Festival.
Choreographer Keegan-Dolan makes it clear to the musicians and dancers he has no goal in mind that he demands from the dancers and musicians. The production will be from their creativity. He cobbles together a series of independent numbers into a coherent production inspiring and listening and then advising as opposed to directing which for him is true improvisational dance.
At times it is painful for less than an ardent supporter of improvisational dance to see the seemingly bizarre twitching’s that resemble more of a movement disorder than dance. Throughout the rehearsal footage I am getting a bit impatient and feeling somewhat justified improvisational dance is simply silly and overdone free form. I will freely admit while not awed overjoyed with what I see I gradually start to appreciate the skills, dedication and determination of the dancers and musicians. However as a writer and poet I begin to see this improvisational dance is an art form that may surpass film where there is a script, a ballet which is pre choregraphed by a director or a classical concert where the musicians are reading a sheet of music. The improvisational dancers have a blank slate and create a work of art that I might say I am a bit cool about. But my opinion about improvisational dance begins to change when I see the bits of opening night with the proper lighting and costuming. Keegan-Dolan and his musicians and dancers clearly have created a masterpiece of which I would gladly see. Oh my I am starting to blush!
Alright the documentary has moved me from detractor of modern dance to one who appreciates it. I can’t believe what I am about to say perhaps I even like it. Keegan-Dolan and director Pat Collins have either messed up my mind or straightened me out but one thing is that I can’t go back to my dislike of improvisational dance. I have moved forward but to where I am not sure. If such a documentary can lead this horse to water and make it drink does that not speak to its power?
It recently premiered at the BFI 2021 London Film Festival and will no doubt show up virtually or actually at your doorstep. You can see the trailer here https://vimeo.com/568064286/c62d7dd267