Irish Dancer’s Purgatory

And so, having banished myself from Irish step dancing, I’m projectless – which is a bit of a problem. And it’s been a while. But let me put that in perspective.

Back in 2012, for some reason, Erin’s Fiddle chose to help me fulfill a dream I never thought I would – I got to write a theatrical Irish Dance show, and then have a pair of choreographers and a gang of about 20 dancers create and tell that story better than I had written it.

Keep in mind that we had very limited support – costumes, stage design, make-up, you name it – we created everything ourselves. After writing the show I got to co-direct it, film and edit the promos, work with light/sound guys to make sure they have all they need and (of course) – to dance in it at the end of it all. And that’s not to brag – the five or six of us running the project were ALL wonderfully burned out from our multitasking by the time it was done, but we did it. We made Erindol (the link’s in Serbian, sorry if you don’t speak it) – the first theatrical Irish Dance show in the country. I dare say we broke the creative boundaries the scene had for the previous decade – indeed, I still feel it was the greatest breakthrough our Irish Dancing scene made creatively up to now.

While cooling down during the next year, I felt more and more constrained and unhappy with competitions, which were a growing priority for us. At the time I was feeling closer to the Irish punk musicians who were emerging than to the dancers I had been working with for years. The thing is that, at the time, the musicians were discovering trad and sessions through help of a couple Irish guys living in Belgrade – Patrick and Marc. I was much more inspired to improvise steps to live music than to drill my technique, and somewhere at this point it finally boiled over and I started teaching myself sean-nós. About a year later I started the first sean-nós group in the area within EF.

(I got better in the meantime, honest!)

Meanwhile, the troupe’s creative juices got recharged enough to dive deep into our next theatrical show. Groundbreaking as it was locally, Erindol was still a fairy tale (about fairies!) and not that far removed from the shows we had seen and loved previously. With the new one we were pushing to create our own expression. And again it was all hands on deck, overloading ourselves as far as we could just to experiment and take it as far as possible. Finally, Ritam Grada premiered in 2015: mixed with documentary shots of our dancers telling how much Irish Dance changed their lives, the show was telling a story of a day in modern Belgrade – from trams to libraries and basketball fields. In the end, our friends from the audience were saying they finally understood why we were so passionate about it!

Unlike Erindol, we actually managed to sustain Ritam Grada and did the second performance of the show this summer. In preparations for that though, I finally made up my mind – it was going to be my last. Much as I loved the show, I couldn’t bring myself to enjoy the actual dancing and practicing anymore. With the performance marking my seventh anniversary with the troupe, I happily bowed down and retired myself from the step dancing scene.

Recently I rejoined PLAVO Pozorište – the theater lab I’ve been putting off for years, and me and my friends are still working on developing our sean-nós skills under the EF umbrella. However, it’s been two years since I wrote Ritam Grada and I can’t say I’m not feeling the itch to start some big project again.

This morning, on my way to PLAVO I was thinking of my hometown again, where I’ve been, where I might be going… And this song came to my earphones to remind me the road is still open, and that it’s ok. Wonder what’s on the other side.

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