Monday, October 1, 2012

PaperDolls Constellation: Spirit of the Fringe Award 2012

It was an exhilarating moment when PaperDolls were announced winners of the Spirit of the Fringe Award 2012 for Constellations, a work I felt was like a giant finish line in the culmination of much of my creative life. Acting as Creative Director and writer on this production with PaperDolls was immensely tough at times and hugely satisfying when we began to realise all our abstractions and big ideas were actually having an impact on our audiences: 

"...much more than this, I was very, very moved by it. It affected me deeply. I just wanted to write to say thank you very much for it."

"I had a particularly bad day, and I been very teary. Then I went to your show and fell under your spell and forgot about absolutely everything else... I couldn't actually speak for about 30 mins after the show and I know I didn't whoop loud enough or clap hard enough. So I just wanted to drop you a note of thanks..."

"There was a real chemistry between you guys which really fed into the mood of the piece and the atmosphere in the room. Seriously, I was blown away by it all. Found myself open-mouthed a good few times. It's been a long time since a show had that kind of effect on me..."

"Paper Dolls was amazing beyond my wildest expectations. From the first second I was hypnotised. This show will stay with me for a long time. Impressed would be an under-statement. You people are legends"

"it slips outside most of the normal categories that you might use to describe something like this. It’s a dance piece that takes place mostly in the air. It’s an acrobatic display that eschews all the cheesy narcissistic showing off which that normally entails. It’s a piece of performance art that revolves around the use of Japanese rope bondage. It’s a gig with a full band (Wolfbait) in the corner who blast out terrifyingly loud and intense noise rock. It’s eerie and unsettling and totally unlike anything I’ve ever seen before"

The reviews that emerged were in tune with what we were exploring and responded positively:

The spectacle provides a constantly-changing vista of human forms struggling and striving not only with themselves, but with each other, the bonds that bind them and even the very air itself. There’s a real sense that the performers are testing the boundaries available to them, yet without the lack of polish you might associate with such no-holds-barred performance. With bodies writhing in mid-air, the atmosphere resembles the world of the Inquisition more so than the ethereal beauty we tend to associate with the phrase “aerial performance”. A truly immersive and unique experience.

Still in their infancy as a company (formed in January 2011), PaperDolls are ferociously determined. This is nicely reflected in the Spartan monochrome costumes worn by the performers and the utilitarian surroundings of D-Light studios, giving the cast the air of a pack of hungry wolves, lean and hard.

The show is billed as ‘an experiment in risk’ and it certainly is that. Some performers have their upper torsos (arms included) bound in rope, before engaging in complex, ground-based and aerial, acrobatic sequences. A highlight is the opening section in which three performers swing from trapeze in complementary rhythms with the razor-sharp precision of metronomes.
- Irish Theatre Magazine

And so, after the successes already being felt by the team, evoked by having moved through a ferociously difficult emotional and physical space in the process of producing a creatively, emotionally and physically challenging show, we at last settled into a gorgeous pace, particularly in the final shows, and the power of what we had succeeded in doing and the connections between us as friends and performers at last started to give us huge satisfaction and joy. I'm glad this work was awarded with the Spirit of the Fringe. For me, the title means that all the guts instinct and desire that was injected into Constellations was indeed connected to an overall zeitgeist of this moment in time and my generation -  and important recognition and support for unconventional, challenging, experimental, uncomfortable and heartfelt creativity in Dublin city! It was also a hugely loving moment when I was jumped on and pushed onstage to accept the award on behalf of everyone involved in making Constellations manifest!

Here's a video that I'm so happy exists! I didn't realise Colin was recording, and I'm really glad he had the wherewithal to do it! I love Colin's unacceptance speech:

Promo video for Constellations:

Monday, August 20, 2012

PaperDolls' present Constellations: ABSOLUT Fringe 2012

I've been utterly neglectful of my blog over the last few months/ year. The reasons for this are varied and valid. PaperDolls has taken over my life, pretty much, and it's a good complaint. Since moving back to Dublin after 9 months working and training in Belfast, the productions and plans have been coming hard and fast. I feel that, like a dynamo, PaperDolls were storing up ideas and energies in Belfast, only for this energy to be unleashed in and onto Dublin. 

Constellations will be PaperDolls most ambitious show to date. A completely original production, it incorporates intensive ensemble corde lisse choreography, physically challenging trapeze work and Shibari - the tradition of Japanese rope bondage, used in this production as a new aerial apparatus for suspending swinging bodies. Constellations will also be PaperDolls first socio-political production, addressing personal and political issues we feel connected to and strongly about. Most primarily, it's about the right to live as one chooses, living actively, living critically and living beyond imposed expectations of what the norm is, including physical, sexual, and psychological norms. Constellations imagines adulthood as if all the vastness of childhood could remain intact in all us grown-ups and  questions why this is not the case. Constellations acknowledges the difficulty of negotiating one's adulthood in the world, and explores freedom within restriction and vigor within monotony. In another way, Constellations is about digesting all that has come before and is a ritual of passing so that something new and wise can emerge from a place of consciousness, honesty, strength, vulnerability, compassion, solidarity and play. 

Constellations acknowledges the limitless interconnectedness of the universe. Between me and you, each performer, performer and each audience member. In a way, Constellations is how we make our  art - drawing on multi-faceted elements to produce a cohesive work. It's like working out equations. There is connectedness to be found in every circumstance and answers to be found in the universe for each searching mind. These answers will not all be scientific, we are more than chemistry, but physicality and chemistry play a huge part in the human story. Our desire, our intention. Magic, divinity and marvel also play important roles.

Constellations is illustrative of the processes of personal illumination and the difficulties of survival. Constellations is physical: we play with boundaries, our abilities and relationships. We play with rules and perception. We play.

More information and tickets: 

Photos: Malcolm McGettigan
Rope: Dommy Darko
Creative Direction: Emily Aoibheann
Location: Occupied bank, Belfast & Catalyst Arts, Belfast

Find yourself without sleep, eye-up strangers in the street. Face caked in muck, smacked with a rope, screaming till our heads spin off. Smashed paint in grass, got dirty knees, conducting rituals on your housing estate green. Radiating magic, laughing, hissing, we mingle with the night and cry; it's alright. We attempt honesty, we attempt trust, we attempt vulnerability, we attempt forgiveness. We attempt survival. We risk everything. We are constantly open and ready for anything. A shamanic trip seeking truth and necessity in suspended territory of uninhibited youth, energy, physical ability and ropes. PaperDolls present Constellations, a visceral and bold statement of intent which divides our eternal truths from the superficial variations.

They came out of nowhere last year with their eponymous debut. This ferociously talented collective are out to take over the world — Róise. (Director, ABSOLUT Fringe)

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Eccentric Ladies at Meeting House Square

I've been busy.
I've been utterly consumed.

And this is the first product of such consummate busyness!

The wonderful, beautiful, colourful, fun Eccentric Ladies come to Dublin city! 

August 5th & 6th 
2pm & 7pm daily

This August bank holiday weekend, the PaperDolls' present an extravaganza of aerial performance, spectacular live music and a banquet of pink lemonade in the heart of Dublin city - the indoors out-of-doors - Meeting House Square. For two days, The Eccentric Ladies will take over the square, hosting theatrical circus shows where marvelous and mischievous characters will carouse, dangle and roam in an atmosphere of decadent decay.

In extravagant dresses, powdered wigs and rouge on their cheeks, the elaborate eccentric ladies will delight their guests, serve lemonade from tea-pots and juggle china cups. The Ladies and friends will delight you, charm you, tickle you pink, with their host of fancies, bloomers and frills, aerial circus treats and acrobatic feats! All the while, cheeky girls and boys will swing from trapezes and ropes above the crowd, dancers will emerge from exotic tea-chests and robbers sneak unseen behind guests - keep a close eye on your glitter pots! A live carnival band tells the tales, stories of the good life of such lively folk.

Adventure, colour, sound and spectacle, PaperDolls present a collaboration especially co-ordinated for Temple Bar Cultural Trust incorporating a site-specific installation of vintage lampshades by textile artists Lace and Wine, and a variety of Irish performers including members of Belfast Circus School, dancers Kat Doherty and Ailbhe Large, pole dancing champion Arlene Caffrey and the Dublin acrobats.

Tickets only €5
Get them here!

Recall the first manifestation of the Eccentric Ladies at Body&Soul 2011? 

PaperDolls: our Big Fat Heads everywhere.

Irish Times, 18th July 2012

Metero Herald, 19th July 2012

Daily Irish Star, July 19th 2012

Irish Independent, July 19th 2012

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Donegal Life: Irish Aerial Dance Festival 2012

Interview I did with Sean Feeny of Donegal Life magazine regarding Fidget Feet's annual Irish Aerial Dance Festival which took place in An Grianán theatre in June this year.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

PaperDolls 2012: It begins

And so it begins. 
Before I am catapulted head-first into a week of 12-hour day rehearsals for the Land of Giants, I stole an hour to actually write a blog! It's been so long! And boy oh boy, what a start to what will undoubtedly be a defining Summer for PaperDolls aerial performance group, details of which will slowly and steadily be revealed over the next month.

Ferocious looking gals that us Dolls are, we have been frequently plucked for the odd photoshoot here and there to promote this gigantic event. This one was taken in Belfast Circus School (where I've been in incubation since September 2011). They pretty-ified my arm pit by photo-shopping my sweat patch out...

To my absolute delight, I was one of three aerialists selected from the Belfast Circus School crew to fly at a great height (up to 70 meters) from a crane over a sea of 20,000 people that will make up the audience for The Land of Giants. This is the harness I've been getting acquainted with, the only thing keeping me safe as I somersault through the air in choreographed abandon! I've labeled her "Emmo". 

And here is where we have been rehearsing the last week. T13 is a huge warehouse which is also a skate and bike park. There's a bunch of hardcore breakdancers, BMX-ers and skateboarders who rally around doing pretty insane stunts - while we, well, rally around doing marginally insane stuff. And the banal - there is much waiting and repeating as we initiate a few 100 volunteers! On occasion, it rains inside! Seriously...

Yesterday we went on site for a quick run through of the opening scene. It was also raining outside!

In preparation for the big event, it has been our absolute pleasure to work with Simone and Joseph from Cuerda Producciones, Argentina, for the last three weeks doing lots of aerial harness! Here's a little video of the PaperDolls and friends, coming to terms with the harness. Graceful - as only us Dolls can be :)

In the meantime, our doppelganger clones have been working hard plotting, scheming and creating amazing new productions to bring to Dublin this year! I feel like exploding with excitement just thinking about what we have in store for our beloved city this Summer! Que facial BEAM! 

Mere days after we dangle from cranes, shoot pyro from tethers, build ships and wrangle letters (you know, the Land of Giants show thing!) we return to Dublin to start our own gigantic work - beginning with what promises to be a very productive two week residency in Axis Theatre, Ballymun from the 5th - 22nd July. 

As part of our time in Axis, PaperDolls will be hosting an evening of performance on the 21st July as well as public workshops in aerial and acrobatics on the 22nd July.

See Elaine Dolls upside down on the front cover of Axis' Theatre's Summer programme!

The full Axis Theatre programme can be downloaded here, including details of our performance and workshop weekend happening on the 21st and 22nd of July.

Finally, just so you know, PaperDolls were so pleased to present 'Soul Juncture' at the Irish Aerial Dance Festival in Letterkenny earlier this month. Jym Daly took some absolutely stunning photos, a sample of which can be seen here.

Well... here I go... head first into the most amazing Summer of my life.

Monday, May 14, 2012

80s dance moves: The Monochrome Set

I may have been seen dancing with 80s indie sensation the Monochrome Set at the Dockers Bar in Belfast on Saturday night. Dancin' and Posin'. Elbows in now!

Harajuku PaperBOX Street Fighters: Festival of Fools

Photographs by Natalie Thompson 2012

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

PaperDolls go Harajuku Girls: Festival of Fools

 ☮ The last week has been completely mad! Regular training and routine was cast out of a high window as the circus school was taken over by the Festival of Fools, Belfast's annual street performance festival. It was AMAZING! Not only did PaperDolls get the chance and challenge of creating a street performance (in less then a week), we also got to socialise, work with and witness high class international street performers of fine repute. I was pretty sure that I would always be an indoor kind of girl, but who would have thunkit! Now I'm a burgeoning street performer. 


Karen Doll took the lead with our performance idea, with my love of Harajuku style contributing to the over all look and concept. The piece itself was completely ridiculous and utterly bizarre but fun, visual, full of potential for development and very much in the spirit of comedy which Belfast Circus School is well known for. 

It was pretty terrifying to face an audience of strangers on the street, a large crowd of people who may decide to go against your performative coaxing and commands. The world of indoor theatrical performance is cosy in comparison - the street is a dangerous playground, but one which is ripe with potential for inspiration and learning and elements of circus I love like risk taking challenge and experimentation.

 The act may change, but I do believe the Harajuku Dolls are here to stay... Project!☮

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Rainy May Day: Spectacal of Hope and Defiance


Oh it was a rainy day for a protest parade, but not only did they see it through, The Spectacle of Hope and Defiance along with several other groups including the Workers Solidarity Movement, did a damn good job of brightening up Dublin city which was drenched in dismal weather yesterday.

PaperDolls were absolutely delighted to be invited back to don the scales of injustice and flaunt our gowns and smiles, with the last minute addition of eccentric lady rain gear to add to the wet spirit of the event (and to avoid saturation as much as possible! Which was largely ineffective... oh well!).

It's raining, it's pouring! That didn't stop the political revelers and the PaperDolls taking great and spectacular strides down O'Connell street in Dublin yesterday. Great thanks to Brian Fleming and big congrats on a great parade of defiance. 

I tell you now, chips taste better in the rain.

See and read about the last time PaperDolls appeared on the scales here.  

(Photos: Workers Solidarity Movement)
 (Photos: Nigel Hanlon)