DDF News — 29 Jul 2021

Get to know some of your favourite artists with DDF's #ArtistAnswers

Get to know some of your favourite artists with DDF's #ArtistAnswers

No doubt the work of many DDF artists has left a lasting impression on you, but have you ever wondered which was the most memorable for them to perform, or what it's like just before going on stage? Or maybe you're curious to know how these movement-minded people found silver linings amidst the restrictions.

As we emerge from (multiple) lockdowns and slowly start to imagine live performance again, DDF takes you behind the scenes to get to know some of your favourite festival artists.

Catherine Young

Finding motivation was certainly a challenge for many recently, but it was sea swimming that gave Catherine Young the boost she needed. No matter what the weather (and without a wetsuit), she would dive into the Atlantic daily - reminding herself of the feeling afterwards. "The sheer cold shocks the system and resets it, especially the mind. It's a daily lesson in pushing through. You feel amazing after it, invincible! Like anything is possible and you’re just so grateful to get warm again, that it puts everything else in perspective. There's alway a real lift after doing it."

Working with powerful subject matter, Catherine's work is captivating and thought-provoking. For her, one of the most memorable pieces has been State of Exception which premiered in 2018. "I had an amazing cast and crew on that journey. It was a difficult subject matter to tackle but the process was really special (in Shawbrook) and I feel we accomplished what we set out to do, which was to do justice to the stories of the asylum seekers who worked with us on the show and to bring more awareness to the lives of those in Direct Provision." 

While we love finding out more about the work of dance artists, we also enjoy discovering unexpected details about their life. One such fact about Catherine – and perhaps a fitting link to her lockdown motivation strategy – is that while in college, she worked as a lifeguard.

Mufutau (Junior) Yusuf

For Mufutau, choosing just one work that stood out as the most memorable or meaningful was impossible as each one has been so different and unique. But this seems to be the most significant part, he explains, "That’s what I believe I enjoy most, the fact that each work is different." 

In preparation to perform though, he has a few consistent tricks to calm the nerves and prepare the body. "I sometimes pretend the show has already started backstage and everything leading up to going on stage is part of the show. This allows me to maintain some level of focus."

But while preparing for live performance wasn't on the cards, Mufutau managed to make the most of what lockdown offered. He said, "My biggest lockdown indulgence has been being able to actually just stop everything, momentarily pull the handbrake on life and take time to reflect, recharge and rewire physically, mentally and emotionally."

Image from Floating on a Dead Sea by Catherine Young © Luca Truffarelli
Image from Floating on a Dead Sea by Catherine Young © Luca Truffarelli
Stace Gill and Maria Nilsson Waller in LUMEN, 2019 © Stace Gill
Stace Gill and Maria Nilsson Waller in LUMEN, 2019 © Stace Gill
Maria Nilsson Waller - Outdoor Working © Stace Gill
Maria Nilsson Waller - Outdoor Working © Stace Gill
Maria Nilsson Waller on stage at Tipperary Dance Platform © Stace Gill
Maria Nilsson Waller on stage at Tipperary Dance Platform © Stace Gill
Mufutau Yusuf
Mufutau Yusuf

Maria Nilsson Waller

When it comes to keeping motivated during lockdown, it's all about staying active and being in the outdoors for Maria. "I am lucky to live just around the corner to beautiful nature so the lake and forest pretty much became my studio and workspace this year."

We also asked Maria about someone who she is excited to collaborate with and she answered by saying, "At the moment I am collaborating with video artist and composer Stace Gill/The Sei on everything, and I suspect this will keep going for a long time! She has a sharp and poetic mind and an incredible ability to catch light (on camera) in a both playful and stunningly beautiful way. Her eye sees small details where I see big landscapes. We have an unusual synergy, and it feels like we have only scratched the surface of what could be done together in terms of building worlds, make music, videos, move and explore."

Lucia Kickham

Like many, one of Lucia's favourite indulgences during the extended period of lockdown was baking. "It felt good to produce something tangible and with muffins, cookies and energy bars… there is the added advantage of getting to eat the results. Finding recipes and experimenting with them, trying to perfect a gluten free scone, making cakes and decorating them in a fancy way I saw online - hours of delicious entertainment! Going into subsequent periods of lockdown I wanted to move more and felt the need for both physical care and challenge. It was time to tend to my body. I started doing some weights and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it, I never really expected to. Feeling the inherent need for alignment and being able to analyse the effort involved in a technical way and also to feel some development and strength has been really satisfying."

No matter how experienced an artist is, preparing to go on stage can bring heightened anxiety. For Lucia, lying down with her eyes closed and listening to Ludovico Einaudi is the answer to this. "I find it helps me to relax after a tech session and centre myself for the performance ahead. It’s a bit like a meditation. In the last few minutes before going on stage I shake. A full body shake that gathers the energy I need and dispels any nervous tension. I wrote and recorded a piece on this shaking practice, Where Calm Once lived, for the Still/Moving blog from Liz Roche Company in 2020."

When it comes to a piece of work or performance that is particularly memorable for Lucia, she recalls performing in Philip Connaughton's Tardigrade in the 2018 Dublin Fringe Festival. "It was described as a sensory overload - lots of layers of colour and sounds and movement colliding and it was just so much fun to be part of that creation and to perform with a big cast of gorgeous and hilarious people. I did also meet my future husband during that festival time and invited him to see the show (which he did!) so it’s understandable, I suppose, that it holds a special place for me."

Tobi Omoteso

You may be surprised to learn that Tobi Omoteso – the street dance artist and creator of the ever popular Top 8 Street Dance Battle – is actually an engineer by day. He works in the area of Software, Network & Automation Engineering and says that he enjoys it as much as being on stage!

For Tobi, the enforced restrictions of the past year have brought some welcome changes to his life too. He says that his favourite lockdown indulgence has been "spending time with myself, my family & training time with my daughter."

Tobi Omoteso © Damien McCarthy
Tobi Omoteso © Damien McCarthy
Window Blinds © Lucia Kickham
Window Blinds © Lucia Kickham
Where Calm Once Lived © Lucia Kickham
Where Calm Once Lived © Lucia Kickham
Lockdown Baking © Lucia Kickham
Lockdown Baking © Lucia Kickham
PhD Dissertation © Rita Marcalo
PhD Dissertation © Rita Marcalo
My Community © Rita Marcalo
My Community © Rita Marcalo

Rita Marcalo

Collaborating with other artists is often an important element of creation new work for many dance artists, and for Rita that's no different. However, when asked about which artist she would most like to collaborate with, she has a slightly different take. "I believe that art is less of a skill you train in, and more of a way of seeing the world. I am fascinated by the artist lurking inside all of us, independently of whether trained artists or not. I would most like to collaborate with my local community of Cloughjordan."

And delving further into Rita's background, there were more unexpected discoveries to uncover including what she wanted to be when she was a child. "When I was 11 my answer to 'what do you want to be when you grow up ' was astronaut and dancer. Eventually I found out that I had to choose, so I chose a career path in dance, but I never left my interest in cosmology, physics, and the nature of reality behind. I continued to read and study it, and in 2006 I finally brought the art of dance and the science of quantum physics together in a PhD."