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Liz Roche Company's production of 'WRoNGHEADED', 2018


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Liz Roche: Creating a Movement for Contemporary Dance

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3 min read

Liz Roche: Creating a Movement for Contemporary Dance

3 min read

Liz Roche: Creating a Movement for Contemporary Dance

Choreographer Liz Roche has established her company, the Liz Roche Company, as one of Ireland’s leading contemporary dance companies over the last twenty years.

The Company have toured their creatively ambitious productions across Ireland, the UK, Europe, USA and Australia and have succeeded in shaping the modern dance cultural landscape in Ireland. 

Their latest project, If I Fall, supported by Creative Ireland, may well be one of their most artistically daring, bringing together the worlds of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and Contemporary Dance for a collaborative exploration of the two forms. The project will unfurl as a crossover dance/theatre work with company dancers and mixed martial arts fighters supported by spoken word artists and community members of The Civic Theatre’s Active Audiences Programme. 

We spoke to Liz about her love of dance, developing her own creativity at a young age and working with Creative Ireland on this exciting new project. 

Above: Liz Roche Company at Sirius Arts Centre in Cobh, 2018

Where did your love of dance come from initially? 

When I was young my parents listened to a lot of classical music and ballet music. There were pictures of ballerinas on the cover of the albums and I liked the way you could see the stage lights in the corner of the image and it just seemed like being on stage was an exciting world to be in. That got me interested in going to ballet classes with my older sister. I loved the way that there were set choreographies of steps that were first performed hundreds of years ago and that as a kid you could learn them and dance them, somehow transporting you back to another time.  And they were complex stories full of sadness and betrayed love and other worlds, so I was hooked.

Where were you able to develop your creativity at a young age? 

To begin with, there were classes up the road in the local church hall and through that we heard about the Irish National College of Dance which was the school of Dublin City Ballet. So after a few years we went there and were able to perform (kids parts) in the bigger ballets. It was super professional, strict and serious, even for an 8 year old.  But it was fun and exciting to be a kid in amongst all of those professional dancers. When I think back we just really skipped around the stage but also we had to concentrate and behave well in rehearsals and not mess up onstage or there would be trouble. 

After that I continued my training more seriously in Dublin for a few years before going to London Contemporary Dance School. I was funded to train through competitive bursaries from the Arts Council but also my parents were very supportive throughout which I think made a huge difference. I had friends whose parents did not understand or like that their kids were dancing and it was much tougher on them to get through the challenges and difficulties of an already tough training regime.

Above: Liz Roche Company's Production of 'Näher... Closer, Nearer, Sooner', 2018

What makes contemporary dance such a creative and exciting medium?

Unlike classical ballet, contemporary dance in general creates new material or movement in each new production. There are styles that flow through a company but in each piece you start with a clean slate as such. It’s challenging but it’s also very liberating. As a choreographer you are searching for the movement that has sense for this one piece . It means as a company, with the dancers, composer and creative team of lighting, costume, set and sound design, you are building the piece together, layer by layer. So it is a really creative experience. Everybody has the opportunity to be at their best and to experiment. Contemporary dance also concerns itself with what is going on in our world now, so there is a sense of moment to moment with it that keeps the creativity fluid and responsive.

How important is it for you to represent Ireland as an artist on an international level? 

It’s very important to have my work shown abroad. Some of the best moments of my life have been on tour with the company. We’ve had fantastic opportunities to meet great artists in the countries we’ve visited and perform in amazing spaces. Since 2001 we’ve performed our work in China, the US, Australia, France, Germany and the UK. Aside from the artistic experience,  just the simple walking around on a day off, being a tourist in these beautiful places, has been really special. With climate concerns its becoming increasingly important to find new ways for my work to have an impact abroad. Jumping on a plane can’t be an easy decision anymore so we are working on ways to be present and to share our work abroad that doesn’t impact our planet in a negative way.

Above: Liz Roche Company's production of 'WRoNGHEADED', 2018

What makes Ireland an exciting place to be an artist now?

We have a very vibrant and increasingly diverse art scene in Ireland. Artists do struggle to make ends meet and more support is needed there for sure, but I do feel part of a community that can express itself freely, with very little censorship, and that is important right now in the world. There is also great energy here, and any artists I know really believe in what they are doing and give it their all. I think that’s really important; that there’s very little cynicism despite the difficulties. 

 How was your experience of working with Creative Ireland on your recent project, If I Fall? 

 Creative Ireland give you a lot of freedom to follow the natural journey of a project. Things change in a project as it develops and its great when you can be responsive to that as opposed to trying to enforce a vision that the project has outgrown. In this recent project we were exploring some very new relationships and there had to be a certain amount of trust in the process that it would uncover what we were looking for over time. Creative Ireland were patient and supportive throughout.

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