ED2014 Dance & Physical Theatre ED2014 Interviews ED2014 Week1 Edition

David Bolger: Issues through dance

By | Published on Friday 8 August 2014


CoisCéim Dance Theatre’s ‘Missing’ is a very impactful piece, exploring the high number of people who go missing each year, in the company’s home country of Ireland in particular, but in general worldwide as well. The focus of choreographer David Bolger’s work is the impact a missing person has on the people they leave behind, who are left searching and hoping. We spoke to Bolger about what inspired him to turn this issue into ‘Missing’, and about the process he went through to bring the work to the stage.

CC: Tell us about the premise of ‘Missing’.
DB: ‘Missing’ is a duet danced by Emma O’Kane and Tom Pritchard. In the work they are both searching for answers about missing people in Ireland, because the piece is really about the people who are left behind searching for a lost loved one.

CC: Where did the idea come from to build a piece around this theme?
DB: The idea first began when I noticed a missing person’s poster image on a lamppost. The poster was fading; time and the weather were starting to make the image disappear. It got me thinking about the importance of remembering missing people. That here was this poster with a plea for help in locating someone, yet her image was fading. But memories of her for her family, friends and loved ones can never fade. They have no closure; always wondering what might have happened.

CC: We see lists in the show, reasons people go missing, the responses of those left behind. Where do those come from? Did you have to do much research?
DB: I began researching ‘Missing’ three years ago. We worked with a lot of organisations which deal with missing person cases, and which support families of the missing. It was difficult to find exact numbers of how many people are reported missing in Ireland each year, as there is no central bank of information. The figures we use in the show where taken for an official report presented in the Irish parliament in 2011. This was to lobby the Irish government to support a national day for the missing, which was successful and now takes place each December.

CC: How did those real life elements impact on the choreography?
DB: With the choreography, I was looking at the theme of searching. Searching with the entire body. Searching for knowledge and understanding. I was also looking for hope in the work. Because there is always hope that someone will turn up again. Interestingly, just a few weeks into rehearsals for the original production, the news story broke of those three women who had been kidnapped in Cleveland, Ohio emerging from their capture, Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight. Although theirs was an horrific story, Berry’s voice at the end of the telephone allowed thousands of other families have hope that their loved ones too could be found years after disappearing.

CC: The design and lighting seems particularly important in this piece. Tell us about the other elements to the production.
DB: In designing for the piece, I knew that I wanted to use empty chairs on stage, as a constant reminder and symbol of the missing. I worked very carefully with our lighting designer Eamon Fox, who also brought a lot of ideas to the table. The colour of the lighting became important, as I believe that we view colour emotionally, and it has a huge impact on our feelings. Even the colour of the costumes I chose for Emma and Tom are very much connected to emotional colour impact. Likewise with the music that I chose to use in the performance. I wanted to find music that would not tell the audience how to feel, but imply just how big the subject matter is and the huge numbers of missing people, not just in Ireland, but the entire world.

CC: The show was very well received at the Dublin Dance Festival last year I hear.
DB: Yes, the work premiered there. It completely sold out its entire run before we even opened. This was very encouraging for us because we had been tucked away in the dance studio working and wondering whether anyone would want to come and see a show with missing people as its central theme.

CC: Are you pleased to be able to bring the show to the Fringe?
DB: Yes, definitely. Edinburgh audiences are so well informed in theatre, dance and the arts in general. This makes audiences here very in tune with difficult subject matters. There is huge responsibility with taking on this subject matter. Being careful not to be sensational, which is all too common in media reporting of missing people. And respecting the memories of the missing, and the families left behind.

‘Missing’ was performed at Dance Base at Edinburgh Festival 2014.

LINKS: coisceim.com