INTERVIEW: Deirdre Grant from Richard Carr's Spotlight

What led you to become an artist?

When I was about 12yrs of age, I saw the ‘Catherine Wheel’ on television by Twyla Tharp. I was mesmerised. There was something in the way they moved that I had never seen before, the patterning, and the no verbal communication. It was enthralling. Right there and then I thought I want to do this!

Who have been some of your biggest influences and why?

I would definitely say that the biggest early influence would have been Barefoot Dance Company in Wexford in the late eighties at Wexford Arts Centre, through its very dynamic artistic director Cathy O Kennedy. There was a team of artists that worked with us in the Youth Dance Company, who were very inspiring

Later, I was captivated by the work of Pina Bausch (and Tanz Theatre) and Trisha Brown Dance Company also in US. I remember reading about Deborah Hay in college and her processes and her cellular based movement, improvisational practices and radical thinking. I remember thinking that that was the way I would like to work as an artist.


What are you working on right now?

I am currently working on a new production Tin Soldier Paper Dance with musician & singer, Nick Day and 13 choral singers. The work is an adaptation of the Hans Christian Anderson story The Brave Tin Soldier. It’s a fairytale for adults really. Very dark and full of angst and unrequited love. It’s due to premiere at Wexford Arts Centre 21st/22nd October.

Tell me about your working process, where things begin, how they evolve etc. 

I always work from improvisation in a studio by myself; I have been practicing Improvisation since I was involved in Youth Dance in my teenage years. I was instantly hooked. Up to that my only experience of dance was the learning of sequences that were set. Where you had to learn the technique and proper execution of the timing /framing/choreography. I found it frustrating trying to master other people’s set material and Improvisation allowed me to go much deeper into myself and extract rich organic material for choreography. I later learnt to really refine dance through improvisation at college. In rehearsals, I usually set some material from improvisation in my choreographies and leave windows open throughout. It’s something that works for me as I have always wanted to innovate, generate and choreograph my own movement. Dance was also so personal for me.

Improvisation is a fantastic tool, it is a way of tapping into my body immediately and drawing from the well ‘in the moment’, so to speak. It has been such a friend to me. In my work, I have been experimenting with ‘authentic movement’ for theatre also which is a practice that encourages the mover to close our eyes, move spontaneously for small periods of time and then recall your movement in great detail anatomically from your ‘Inner Witness’ perspective. It can be used in holistically, socially & theatricality, but I have strictly chosen to work with it for theatrical purposes. It is incredible what comes out of the sub-conscious. I then try to refine, edit and set material from this process.

Could you describe the environment in which most of your work takes place and does this in any way effect your practice?

The environment/s is quite diverse; When I first got my dance degree, I idealistically used to see dance practice only happening in a sprung- dance floor environment, college ideals eh??? But as I’ve got older, I notice that creativity and the production of dance is just as likely to happen in a different terrain, like outdoors, just as much as be generated from a studio.  I’m not sure if I was forced to come to this conclusion by always having limited access to open or free studio space or I’ve just learnt to adapt and make the best of what is there in regional context?

I still think though it’s crucial to have space and quiet time for dancers in a studio space to refine your ideas, properly. It’s important that artists provide a counterbalance to frenetic and sometimes unbalanced life outside. I just don’t think you can reflect properly whilst being part of the franticness of life.  

Do you experiment with different materials/processes a lot or do you prefer to work within certain parameters?

I’m a completely open experimental artist, I’m abet of a pariah when it comes to feeding off energy and ideas and I adore research phases on projects. I enjoy an opportunity to cross over, invent and collaborate with other dance artists, musicians, visual artists from time to time. I do think though I am an artist that ultimately sits within ‘dance theatre genre’ and theatre is my home.

The only parameter I like to set is that what I’m doing should be always purposeful in a theatrical way, even though sometimes its abstract and I can’t readily justify its purposefulness in words. I enjoy dance projects that I’m involved with in dance theatre & dance in health projects to have longevity and present a wider impact on the dance sector.

Within the wider ‘art’ field do you feel the type of work you make is important today and why?

Yes, people have lost their connection to their bodies. Our minds seen to dominate almost every aspect of our lives, at a cost to the anatomy and health. Dance and movement studies (through performance or workshop) really brings the onus back on the body, working in cooperation with our bodies and breath in a restorative, informative way.  Dance reminds us that we have a spirit also.  In the past 10 yrs., I would say we have a very distorted body image and we need to challenge how we accept our own skin and this ‘vessel’ that we live in.

If you could jump 10 years into the future where would you like to see yourself and your practice?

I would just love to continue to generate dance projects for theatre & Dance in Health contexts, perhaps research and document work in Ireland (which is poor on the ground), but I would like to do this fulltime.


How do you feel online art networks/ communities like the South East Cultural Centre could better support you and your work?

For me a ‘cultural centre’ is most welcome, as I feel isolated working in the region. Even a virtual community is welcome, but has limitations. I do miss the interactive quality of ‘physical bodies’ in a meeting space and the joy that can come from that knowing you are part of a larger community and feeding off this energy?  It would be nice to see the centre with maybe some funding where it could make events happen, even just every now and again. I would love to see the Venues, smaller companies and artists meeting together and a physical forum provided for that perhaps?

I also think there is a general problem with pay in the sector for Freelance Artists, which have crashed in recent times. I see this with dance & theatre facilitators/artists in particular and is shocking.   

Is there anything else you would like to add?

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By Richard Carr
Added Jun 1 '16



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