DDF News — 20 May 2022

Festival Blog – DanceScapes Q&A

Festival Blog – DanceScapes Q&A

The Festival is underway and it’s time you got to know some of the fantastic artists who will be gracing our stages over the next few weeks! Next weekend, the Wood Quay Amphitheatre will play host to the fierce, vibrant energy of three young artists, Onai Tafuma, Jessie Thompson and Jessie O’Reilly. Commissioned by Dublin Dance Festival, and co-curated by Tobi Omoteso of Top 8, DanceScapes presents three short works from these exciting young voices in Irish street dance.

Speaking of the programme, co-curator, Tobi Omoteso said, “DanceScapes is led by three amazing street dance artists, who are not entirely in the street dance realm, but are multidisciplinary artists. They use different modes and mediums for their creative expression. These three individuals have different flavours, different characters and different expressions and it will be great to see that showcased. […] I hope the audience will take away that street dance can be used as a creative expression on a theatre stage, on a street performance stage, on a dance battle stage, showing the versatility of the genre, and that street dance has a rich culture behind it.”

Ahead of the show opening on the 27th May, we sat down with some of the artists involved to hear a bit more about their practice, the work they are bringing to the stage, and what they are looking forward to at Dublin Dance Festival. Jessie Thompson is the choreographer and performer of From One, a solo celebrating the unique qualities of contemporary dance and hip-hop freestyle, and Jessie O’Reilly is the choreographer and one of the performers in Evolving, a duet with Jodanna Hughes which uses a powerful hip-hop vocabulary to shine a light on the battles faced by women as they step into adulthood.

Could you tell us a little about yourself and your practice?

Jessie Thompson: I am a multidisciplinary movement artist specialising in hip hop freestyle, choreography and experimental contemporary dance. My practice fluctuates from training outside and at street dance events with my community, to residencies and projects researching my creative ideas, bringing them to life and of course performing. I love to explore the beautiful gap between street dance and dance in theatre and a lot of my practice is currently driven by doing so on a wider bigger scale in Dublin City.

Jessie O’Reilly: I am an Artist from Dublin but moved to London in 2014 to continue my development. I mainly train Hip Hop freestyle which means that I am developing my movement to be completely free and adapt in real time with whatever music is presented. As my style has been developing I would like to try now to use this in pieces as a way to see where I am at in my freestyle and how it has changed.

Can you tell us more about DanceScapes and the work you are presenting as part of the programme?

Jessie Thompson: The work I am presenting at DanceScapes is an exploration of all the contrasting experiences I have endured in my practice, the similarities and differences across the styles, music and performativity I use and explore. It’s a stimulating and exciting journey through live original sound as I will be performing alongside live musician Jason McNamara, merging choreographic ideas while maintaining the element of improvisation and reaction.

Jessie O’Reilly: The work we will be presenting is a reflection of both our journeys in dance and life. The piece takes us on a journey of the womanhood that we have experienced so far which makes us vulnerable but also empowered.

What has the creation process been like for you?

Jessie Thompson: The process for me has been really enjoyable, challenging and super collaborative. I have undergone personal research, explored play and remained disciplined throughout the process thus far which has allowed my ideas to develop and of course change, a lot. I enjoy how dance and music have the ability to unfold a story you didn’t necessarily intend on planning.

Jessie O’Reilly: I feel like it has definitely been a challenge, both myself and Jodanna have very busy schedules and are based in London and Wales but the most challenging part was just having to dig deeper and think about my personal transition from girl to woman and how to visually portray this to an audience. Working together has been really fun and it has created a great bond between us so we are very excited to share.

What influences have you drawn on in your career or in this work specifically?

Jessie Thompson: I have been heavily influenced by my experience in the Irish hip hop and Street Dance community, from battling my peers at events over the past few years, cypher exchanges, training outside, as well as working recently with Irish choreographers such as Emma Martin, Liz Roche, Mateusz Szereck and many more on exciting projects with music that inspires me. I also draw on my practice in film [..] it’s so different when creating live performances but using that space to create time similar to creating shots that are thrilling and aesthetically beautiful.

Jessie O’Reilly: I feel that I am very influenced by the woman in the hip hop scene, their strength and determination has helped empower me and my direction.

What are you looking forward to most about this year’s Festival?

Jessie Thompson: This year there is a great buzz in the air due to the fact festivals are only getting back on their feet, in person, and I’m excited to reconnect as well as connect with new people, and of course watch as many shows as possible!

Jessie O’Reilly: I am really looking forward to sharing the stage with my duet partner Jodanna who I have watch grow as a dancer over the last few years and she has recently joined my crew Raw Honey so I was be an amazing memory to share, also coming back to Dublin to show my first piece and share the stage with Jessie and Onai, I feel that is will be a very special reunion.

What is next for you?

Jessie Thompson: I see myself continuing this self-exploration of merging my street dance and experimental practice into a theatre realm and expanding on that through creating ensemble works and touring. I want to build on the emerging community of movers I have been working with in Ireland and curate events such as battles and festivals for artists of all disciplines to come together and keep working in movement direction and choreography in film to collaborate with some of my favourite directors in the industry.

Jessie O’Reilly: I would love to dive deeper into the world of Hip Hop Theatre and continue you my freestyle practice and grow as an artist and develop pieces that relate to the world around me.

What do you hope audiences will take away from DanceScapes?

Jessie Thompson: Honestly, a memory stored in the senses, whether it’s to see, hear, or in turn a feeling. I would also like to meet more interested movers who may want to explore and can identify what they’re looking for across my own work, or the other two pieces, and have conversations about that to encourage or develop possible opportunities for these exchanges and collaborations to happen.

Jessie O’Reilly: I hope that the audience can take away that they are not alone in the transitions through life and to let your inner child be present and guide you.

Described by the artists as blissful, stimulating and honest, DanceScapes promises to be an unforgettable dance experience, bringing the Wood Quay Amphitheatre alive with the powerful energy of three powerful, fresh artistic voices.

Written by Saoirse Anton, DDF Blog Curator