Irish arts group Solas Nua brings ‘The Humours of Bandon’ to D.C.

When the Dublin-based actor and author Margaret Mc Auliffe started performing “The Humours of Bandon,” her solo present about aggressive Irish dancing, she was astonished by theatergoers’ emotional response.

“It really took me by surprise,” says Mc Auliffe, who spells her final identify with an area, the Irish manner. “I was writing about this very niche world, and thought it was too specific to be universally relatable.”

But the play’s portrait of a teenage wannabe-champion dancer, who navigates a scene rife with frenzied ambition and aching disappointment, turned out to have broad attraction. “If you ever had any activity that was your whole focus when you were younger, and you no longer do it, I think there is something in here for you,” the playwright says.

Inspired by Mc Auliffe’s personal 18-year stint as a aggressive Irish dancer, and named for a conventional Irish tune, “Humours” debuted on the Dublin Fringe Festival in 2016, successful awards and happening to tour internationally. It performs May 31 via June 11 on the Atlas Performing Arts Center, the final cease on a North American tour introduced by the D.C.-based modern Irish arts group Solas Nua and Dublin’s Fishamble: The New Play Company.

Speaking by WhatsApp from Cincinnati, Mc Auliffe, 40, mentioned the present’s genesis, context and affect.

(This interview has been edited for size and readability.)

Q: Tell me how this present took place.

A: There was a name for submissions for a program in Ireland known as “Show in a Bag,” which was an initiative run by Irish Theatre Institute, Dublin Fringe Festival and Fishamble: The New Play Company to equip theater makers to create work they may tour simply. I utilized and received one of the spots.

Q: Could you describe Irish dancing and the championship scene?

A: Irish dancing is a conventional Irish pastime. All of the dancing takes place actually utilizing the underside half of your physique. The higher half of your physique could be very straight, and your arms are down by your sides. In gentle footwear, you dance your reel, slip jig, single jig, gentle jig for the learners. In heavy footwear, you dance your jig, hornpipe, and all of the completely different conventional set dances and solo set dances. There are organizations that educate Irish dancing to kids for competitions. [“Humours”] is a wealthy panorama of characters: the encouraging, enthusiastic and pushed instructor; the kids who excel at one thing that they’ve a ardour for; the adjudicating course of, and the way it can appear honest to some kids and unfair to others; and the youngsters that study humility in defeat and in successful.

[The Irish competitive dancing scene] has modified over time. People concerned in the present day wouldn’t essentially acknowledge every little thing that I discuss within the play. Nowadays, the steps that the champions are doing at 17 years of age are world class. You could be hard-pressed to discover one thing as spectacular on the Olympics. It could be very aggressive. We used to dance in competitions the place there could be 20 or 30 individuals in your reel. Now, there will be over 100.

Q: Why the surge in curiosity?

A: “Riverdance” opened up Irish dancing to the world following the Eurovision Song Contest in 1994 [when a dance performed by Michael Flatley, Jean Butler and others wowed viewers and became the seed of the international dance phenomenon]. I bear in mind going to Irish dancing class after I had seen “Riverdance” and my instructor saying, “Things are going to change.” And they did. You had a profession in dance [as an option] that you just didn’t have earlier than.

From the archives: ‘Riverdance’ and the Eire sensation

Q: What was the most important problem about this mission for you?

A: I bear in mind sitting at my laptop computer and remembering my relationship with my instructor for the sections the place I’m enjoying her. There had been tears operating down my cheeks. It was such a cathartic expertise for me. [Irish dancing] had been my entire life for years. I discovered it after I was 5. I retired after I was 23, after which I opened up an Irish dancing faculty with a pal. When I turned disillusioned, I didn’t have the center to inform anyone. Writing the play was my manner of letting go. I’ve had individuals come up to me and say, “You really brought me back to my old swimming meets,” or “My old piano teacher was just like your Irish dancing teacher.” They had been struck with this sense of guilt that they’d fallen out of ardour with what, on the tender age of 15, was their entire life.

Q: Do you dance within the present?

A: My director [Stefanie Preissner] determined to pepper it via — a flash of it right here and there — however not to go full welly [i.e., all in] till the top, to have the viewers guessing as to whether or not or not I might truly dance. The ending is a decision for each the protagonist and the viewers, concurrently. Stefanie has a eager eye for what makes good theater.

Q: Does the present go over in a different way right here than in Ireland?

A: At residence, there’s a way of guilt individuals really feel once they see the present that they by no means mentioned goodbye to their former instructor. Over right here, we’ve been touring principally Irish arts facilities. The components of the present that folks actually determine with are the accents, the phrasing. They get a nostalgic hit. I carried out this play in Manhattan. Jean Butler — in Irish dancing circles, a giant movie star — afterwards got here up to me and mentioned, “They all think this is a comedy, but I know this isn’t a comedy!” I felt so seen. It’s a humorous play, however to make it humorous, I’ve to bear in mind the disappointments and actually get upset.

Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St. NE.

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