–Parachute Dance, who are you and what brings you together?
Parachute is myself, and a few close friends, including my boyfriend, who met through my studies at the University of Edinburgh, and Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, where I’m currently a student. When starting a creative project, you want people who are talented, open and willing to try new things, and I’ve learnt through previous work the crucial importance of trust at the centre of productive creative relationships. One of our producers and I worked previously together on an academic yearbook for the University of Edinburgh in 2012, and Kayla (one of our dancers) and I happily suffered through choreography assessment together as part of our studies at Laban. The arts, while in general are underfunded and offer a very low rate of pay, is full of people who enjoy what they do – I’m here because, ultimately, I find making dance to be highly enjoyable and worthwhile, despite frequent fluctuating levels of stress that it imparts; I like to think the others would agree with me.
-I have to admit I am yet to read ‘Catch-22’, and feel I must do so immediately if not definitely before opening night in August. In what way did Joseph Heller’s satirical novel ‘Catch-22’ inspire you?
“Catch” is such a funny book, really, and I don’t often laugh out loud while reading but with “Catch” it was every few pages. This only increased with further readings, as I appreciated more the subtlety and craft of Heller’s writing. The end of a sentence is never where you’d thought you’d end up, and the absurdity has a beautiful simplicity. And yet, what it deals with is that very fundamental aspect of our being – our mortality, and how it is so fragile, especially in the hands of those who see you as disposable. In Heller’s book, those that are disposable are the young men enlisted to fight. I’ve always found, however, that the comedy and the more serious message are not contradictory, rather they are two sides of the same coin – it is almost as though laughter sits right next to crying, with Heller we laugh because the situation is stupid and bizarre and horrible and bleak all at the same time. Our laughter is that of absolute clarity and despair.
-Sounds intensely captivating, I can’t wait to see a performance. Can you tell me a little about ‘Entrails‘, what it’s all about, in a nutshell?
Hmm, in a nutshell… the piece is inspired by, but is by no means a direct adaptation of the book ‘Catch-22’. So, we’ll be in a place with these three individuals who are clearly trying to deal with a situation that is fused with hostility and indifference. That environmental hostility could come from each other, as well. I don’t want to impose a strict narrative, really, I prefer pieces that give you a clear setting and atmosphere, but that don’t impose an ‘a then b then c’ storyline. A bit like Beckett – clearly something has happened outside of the theatre space, but you’re never quite sure what.
-Coming from a literary background, as well as one of dance and music, the music soundtrack for ‘Entrails’ must be as significant as the movement on-stage. Is there a specific soundtrack for ‘Entrails’, and if so, where has it come from?
A lot of what I have learnt at Laban is to not slavishly create a dance piece to the rigours of a set piece of music rather that you have an idea, and that the sound and dance are two parts of that idea. Artists in the Parachute Dance playlist right now include: Goldmund, Max Richter, David Lang and Mira Calix.
-You outlined previously what influences you drew from the literary work ‘Catch-22’, do you draw from any other inspirations? What or who, are these inspirations?
I could list for days my inspirations, and they change each week. Last week I saw Crystal Pite at Sadler’s Wells – I had never seen her work before, so as always I was struck by the specific voice of the choreographer. Pina Bausch is such a dominant figure in dance theatre it’s almost silly to mention her influence, but for me, her humour is very similar to Heller’s – it lies in the border of social conventions and their ultimate arbitrariness. I love ballet, though I’m not sure if it will feed into this piece in an explicit way- but Jiri Kylian and William Forsythe are up there.
-It’s lovely to hear how the things that influence you change and merge from day to day, I find the same thing, and it’s a great way to live in the world. This is the first production from Parachute Dance. How have you found the process of bringing it together and directing?
I was just thinking today, the creative process is mostly a lot of lows with one or two highs. But those highs, when they come, do make it all worthwhile – I know, pretty clichéd, but I think that it’s true. Mostly, I’m struggling with the responsibility of bringing together such a long piece having only choreographed shorter pieces before. Obviously the dancers and producers feed a great deal into the project, this is by no means a solo endeavour. A lot of the time I simply worry whether I am pushing this in the right direction, and if my idea can stand up to the needs of a longer work. But I guess, that’s exciting too…
-You currently live and work in dance in London, so why choose the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2016 for your debut production with Parachute Dance?
I’ve worked as part of the Fringe team a number of times so it’s always seemed completely obvious to me that I would try at some point to bring a production to a stage there. Obviously, it is expensive to embark on such a journey but Edinburgh Fringe Festival is an open access festival, anyone can submit something, so if you can, why not, right?
-Absolutely! My personal attention to ‘Entrails’ was initially caught by an online promotional video that you posted. What made you turn to crowdfunding? How has the process worked for Parachute Dance, and would you recommend crowdfunding to other creatives?
I would without a doubt recommend crowdfunding. I thought we would mostly receive a lot of small donations and the process would take quite a lot of time to reach our target, but people have been incredibly generous. Obviously, you have to make people want to support you, and our producers Aran and Laura have been great at thinking up and providing great perks and incentives for the backers of Parachute Dance. Going in with this support, not just financially, but from so many different people, takes the sting out of this big step we’re taking.
-Interview with Róisín O’Brien, director and choreographer with Parachute Dance
For further information about Parachute Dance including how to contribute to their crowdfunding pot of gold follow this link.