One of Ireland’s most vibrant contemporary dance companies, Junk Ensemble, make a welcome visit to the Town Hall next week with their production Five Ways to Drown.
Junk Ensemble was founded in 2004 by twins Megan and Jessica Kennedy. The company has been winners of Best Production Award 2011, Culture Ireland Touring Award in 2008, Excellence and Innovation Award in 2007 and was listed as a Sunday Times Highlight in 2011. Their work has toured nationally and internationally.
Five Ways to Drown looks into the interior of people’s lives and exposes the sadness, the absurdity and the banality through vignettes of dance and installation. In this public display of the private, the choreography of everyday life becomes extraordinary. The show was first staged at the 2010 Dublin Dance Festival where it received glowing reviews. Irish Theatre Magazine described it as an “energy-filled dance work, with an imaginative mix of quirky humour and melancholy” and The Irish Times found it “absorbing and affecting.”
Over an early evening phone call, Junk Ensemble’s Megan and Jessica Kennedy talked about the company’s work and the current show. I began by asking if it had always been their intention to set up a company together. “Not from the beginning; it happened quite gradually,” Megan replies. “We both trained separately and went to uni in separate places. My final year dissertation was a practical piece and Jess and another dancer collaborated and performed in it and we realised we worked really well together, and then in 2004 we started making a duet and for the two of us that began the inspirational process of devising together and finding that we are very much on the same path.”
“It just started to make sense that we would work together,” Jessica adds. “We move quite similarly and have quite similar style and have similar aesthetics and all that blended quite well. Initially we didn’t have much money but in 2006 we got a commission from Project Arts Centre to do The Rain Party which was just with the two of us but after that we started working with more people and making work with more of a collaborative process.”
Megan outlines the company’s creative process; “Generally the way we start working is conceptual, we have an idea we throw around then put down on paper then come up with images, and the music and choreography often comes later. We often work with intergenerational performers and Five Ways is testament to that, we have an older woman and a young boy of 12 and then three professional dancers, but everyone is dancing. What we’re exploring is domesticity and the banality of everyday life so it really helps to have an intergenerational cast. It’s a very family orientated show.”
The boy dancer is Joshua Dyson and Megan describes how they integrated him into the work; “Josh was 10 when we first made the piece and he was tiny. Now, two years later, he has facial hair and his voice has broken! We did wonder if we should get someone smaller for this tour but we like the idea that the piece is still growing and we have to adapt the piece to him and he stays in it because he helps make it, it’s just as much his piece as ours. We do have to change the choreography; there’s one section where he is being lifted all over and around the other dancer’s head and it’s a lot harder now to do this!”
Jessica reveals some of the ideas behind Five Ways to Drown; “We’re trying to create a viewing of domesticity. A lot of it was inspired by Hitchcock’s Rear Window, we like that idea of looking in on other people and them doing odd things. We’ve framed part of the set so that it represents different rooms and different apartments of everyone’s life and how different they are from each other, but then once we come into the main space we do represent some sort of dysfunctional family and Josh represents a brother, a son, a grandchild so all three of these roles attribute to him just as we represent sisters and mothers and so forth. The characters are fluid, they run around into each other and are not set which is what we like about the piece, and what we try to do in all of our work is to leave things open; we suggest things and the audience can interpret it in their own way.”
Five Ways to Drown is at the Town Hall for one night only, next Thursday, June 14, at 8pm.
Tickets are available from the Town Hall on 091 - 569777 and www.tht.ie