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Irish choreographer Oona Doherty brings her Sugar Army to London’s Dance Umbrella

[Photo credit: Oona Doherty in Hope Hunt. Photo by Maria Falconer]

Oona Doherty is an Irish Choreographer based in Belfast whose latest work has enjoyed raving five star reviews at this years Edinburgh International Festival. Since 2010 she has created and toured dance and theatre works with companies such as TRASH (NL), Abbattoir Ferme (BE), Veronika Riz (IT), Emma Martin/United Fall (IE). Oona’s work has recently been performed at festivals around Europe including; Ravnedans Festival Norway, the Dublin Dance Festival and as an Areowaves artist. In 2016, Oona became The MAC Belfast HATCH Artist and Prime Cut Productions REVEAL Artist. Oona talks to Run-Riot about her upcoming performances as part of Dance Umbrella.

Photo Credit: Oona Doherty in Hard To Be Soft. Photo by Luca Truffarelli]

Grace Nicol: You're a Dance Umbrella Featured Artist, what can we expect from your work as part of this year’s festival?

Oona Doherty: Hard To Be Soft: A Belfast Prayer is a big neon bright limbo, episodes of colour and sweat and heart. Hope Hunt and the Ascension into Lazarus is the prologue to Hard To Be Soft. Good craic, struggle, heart and thumping beats.
Grace: You describe your work as being ‘a performance that’s about a social issue, a political issue, but without being crassly and explicitly about that issue.’ How do you see art and politics going hand in hand? Do you believe that it is the responsibility of artists to be involved in politics through their work?

Oona: I don’t think it’s their responsibility but I think it’s unavoidable. You are a product of your environment and in dance you’re working with people and they are innately political, sensual, and spiritual.

[Photo Credit: Oona Doherty in Hard To Be Soft. Photo by Luca Truffarelli]
Grace: In an interview you list your influences as; Cronenberg films, Jackson Pollock and Francis Bacon. What significance do these artists, with their exploration of masculine agency and individualist expression, have on your work? Would you say this was one of the stimuli for the subject matter of Hard to be Soft?

Oona Doherty: Jackson Pollock is more definitely related to my work Lady Magma. Bacon is in all of it. He spread the paint to show the meat of people and the spirit of them. The violence of emotions. I’m inspired by many directors and films, the colour, the frame, the speed. The feeling.
Grace: How was it working with composer, David Holmes (of Killing Eve fame, amongst many other soundtracks)?

Oona Doherty: Amazing, I’m very with happy with my sound and its quality. He also made the music for Lady Magma which is off the scale! It was difficult at first because I didn’t have the time to bring him into the studio and show him the work while he created. I found it tough trying to explain the work in words because we come from different backgrounds. But we did it and it’s class!


Grace: As a Northern Irish artist, what is the significance of the ever-growing #nowforNI movement to you?

Oona Doherty: Very important, you can help by going to this website and emailing your local MP.
Grace: You are working with young women as part of this project, does the movement #nowforNI affect how you work with young people?

Oona Doherty: Episode 2 of Hard To Be Soft is a group of 10 teenage girls, the ‘Sugar Army’. The girls are from the amazing Brit school and they are unbelievable movers. I hope one day to bring all of my European Sugar Armies together. Belfast, Paris, Lyon, Berlin, Edinburgh, London . . . so far!!! Who knows what’s next?!! And bring them to dance together in Belfast outside Stormont. If the abortion law is not fixed by the time I make this happen then maybe the European Sugar Army could help with this in some way? Performing for the awareness of it.
It is also a demonstration to show how separating from Europe and having no government directly affects the future of our youth.

[Photo Credit: Oona Doherty in Hope Hunt. Photo by Simon Harrison]
Grace: Finally, when and where can we see your work?

Oona Doherty: As part of Dance Umbrella: Hard To Be Soft: A Belfast Prayer, a Prime Cut co-production, is at the Southbank Centre on October 11. Hope Hunt and The Ascension Into Lazarus is at The Yard Theatre from October 14-16. I’m also curating DU: Sunday Shorts, a mixed bill of short films at the Barbican on Sunday October 13.

Oona Doherty

Dance Umbrella
8-27 October
Various venues, London

Tickets and Info: www.danceumbrella.co.uk

[Photo credit: Oona Doherty in Hard To Be Soft. Photo by Luca Truffarelli]

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