Northern Ireland’s leading performing arts studio is setting up for a summer of creativity with the announcement of a new triple bill of contemporary dance work. With support from Arts Council NI, and in partnership with Vault Artists’ Studios, Newry-based Dance Associate is commissioning three renowned choreographers to shine light on the important issues facing society today.
‘Chapters’ will combine the talents of five male dancers from across Ireland – Patrick Connolly, Adam Ashford, Oisin Dunne, Sean O’Neill, and Rhys Devlin, to take an honest, open, and judgement-free look at some of the biggest challenges facing men today. Through the pieces, these issues will be explored creatively and alternatively through dance and performance.
Belfast-based dance artist Suzannah McCreight choreographed the ‘Allies’; a performance rooted in the concept of friendship and brotherhood which highlights the importance of asking for – and accepting – the help of others. It shows, through art, that nobody is ever on their own.
Emily McDonagh choreographed the piece called ‘Hoodies’. The original music by Brendan Scullion, produced by Eoin Curran, Hoodies examines the social pressure that men in Northern Ireland face today. Inspired by the original 10-minute segment from the 2018 show, this performance will use dance to explore privilege, politics, and upbringing.
‘Our Boys’ is the third piece to be included within the Chapters performance, choreographed by Michael McEvoy, and with original music by Patrick Knipe. This work will take a deep dive into men’s mental health, striving to create greater awareness around what is a rapidly escalating issue across Ireland.
Despite all pieces being different, they do have one very important factor in common: they are all designed to spark a discussion between male friends and family members and encourage men to share their thoughts and fears relating to everything from financial worries to relationship concerns and mental health battles. The pieces are intended to show that it’s OK to talk.
Nina Dibb, Artistic Director, says, “The mental health crisis across the United Kingdom is growing. And while we are fortunate to have organisations in place that are doing what they can to help, the reality is that these organisations are only able to help those that ask for it. There are so many people out there who are struggling, but don’t feel that they are able to reach out and ask for the support they need. Many of these are men.”
“That’s why we’ve launched the Dance Impact project – Chapters” continues Dibb. “Men – and male issues – are largely underrepresented in the arts. And so, we’re on a mission to not only provide opportunities to male artists across Northern Ireland, but also to shine light on the challenges facing men today, and help them realise that it’s OK to not be OK. We are forever grateful to Arts Council NI for supporting us on our journey to turning the idea for Chapters into reality.
Mental health amongst men is emerging as an urgent challenge, with males more likely to feel uncomfortable about reaching out for crucial support. In England, it’s reported that 1 in every 8 men experiences problems with mental health, with rates in Northern Ireland understood to be 25% higher. The Dance Associate team is pleased to be able to use their expertise to draw awareness to this, and to leverage the power of art, creativity, and performance to show men that asking for help is a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness.
The innovative and poignant artistic pieces will be performed during two exclusive shows in Northern Ireland. The first, on 16 June, will be held at Vault Artist Studios in Belfast, followed by a performance at Newry Town Hall on 18 June. Tickets can be purchased online, or by calling 07725 518020.