Croi Glan and West Cork Inclusive Dance Group
Funded by the Arts Council Artist in the Community Scheme
Report by Kath Gorman, independent producer, who attended the performance of Bridge 31st May 2014 on behalf of Create
There was a sense of occasion and anticipation as hundreds of people gathered at the Pier at Ballydehob, West Cork to see the site-specific performance of Bridge by integrated dance company Croi Glan. This was a fine summer’s evening on the last Saturday of May 2014, attracting and audience from Ballydehob and neighbouring villages. Live music and local artisan food set the scene as the audience looked out at the bridges before them. In particular, catching the attention was the imposing 12 Arch Bridge, which crosses the estuary at Ballydehob and originally carried the West Cork railway.
This project has been many months in the making, involving different local partners – COPE Foundation, West Cork Arts Centre, CoAction and West Cork Mental Health as well as dance and arts participants from West Cork Arts Centre. The diversity of groups involved was clearly evident in the numbers of people both attending as audience members and as performers. Performing with Croi Glan members were also the newly formed West Cork Inclusive Dance Group – created specifically for this project – a diverse group of people from teenagers to older people, with and without disabilities. The group had been working on the project since the autumn, with rehearsals at the site over the last week before the public performances.
A lone voice signaled the beginning of the performance. As the singer, backed by a live band, moved slowly towards the audience, dancers in red and black began to move across the lower footbridge. The footbridge became a moving stage as over time thirty plus performers moved back and forth, arching and bending their bodies athletically and gracefully in solo, duet and group performances. The footbridge became a dance barre, demonstrating the dancers’ physicality, strength and finesse. Mary Nugent, a performer with Croi Glan, and other performers, used their wheelchairs playfully, both as vehicle and dancing partners.
Behind and above them on the imposing 12 Arch Bridge performers moved creating a sense of scale and drama as they reached to the sky. Other performers perched birdlike across the entire width of the same bridge. Aerialist Tara Brandel and her companion lowered themselves to the soulful sounds of ‘strength, courage and wisdom’ and scaled down the side of the bridge on ropes, like mountaineers and arching and circling their way down until they released yellow silks billowing like sails in the breeze. Two rowing boats waited beneath them and this aerial finale ended with a solo figure watching from on high as her two companions were rowed towards the shore and the audience.
Music for the performance was provided under the guidance of musician and composer Eoin Nash of Suisha Inclusive Arts at the COPE Foundation, and arranged and performed by Siobhan Heapes, Miranda McCarthy-Fisher, Anna Murray, Marcus Magdalena. This was a project ambitious in its site, scale and performer numbers, aiming for full inclusiveness and physical expression by all performers that echoed the dramatic cinematic quality of the 12 Arch Bridge.