Jess Rowell’s Dance Residency Update

September 28, 2020

21st-25th September - Research & Development Week for Dance Artist in Residence Jess Rowell at Draíocht


R&D week for ‘Between Us There Is…’ which will premiere at ‘Threads’ an evening of dance, music and film focusing on disability and inclusiveness in arts practice on November 20th & 21st at Draíocht. ‘Threads’ will mark the completion of Jess’s residency and will also feature the premier of Create Dance’s film ‘Chance to Dance’ and a live performance by guest dance artist and Artistic Director of Croí Glan, Tara Brandel.

Between Us There Is….

A week full of generosity, openness, flexibility and ingenuity. The main focus of our time together was for myself, dancer Brian Mc Sweeney, composer Stefan French and mentor Libby Seward to settle into our collaboration. We instantly established a harmonious working interaction and rhythm. We listened, explored, witnessed and responded in the most sensitive of ways.

Although this week was the first time I met Stefan in person it truly felt as if we’d worked together before. There was sensitivity, understanding and openness in our dialogue. Our creative preparation and musical theme discussions over the past few months really paid off, enabling a very productive week on all levels. The various musical themes discussed prior to the week were inspired by aspects of my movement relationship with Brian.

Growing, creating and moving with Brian over the past twelve years has been an incredible experience, we have a deep movement bond and share a passion for dance. It is such a pleasure to be creating a piece of work acknowledging our movement relationship.

In conversation with Brian I asked him how he felt when he’s dancing. He replied with “Electricity”, “Let it go – like the rain falling down from the sky”, “Back to being myself / ourselves again”.

On this occasion our interaction has been informed and influenced by the times we are moving through. This enforced distance has influenced my creative vision and I have explored ways for us to embody that space in a tangible way.

Stefan and I worked together with mentor Libby in Draíocht studio for the first half of the week. Brian was unable to join us in person for the first 3 days, however with the help of the wonderful technical team at Draíocht, a zoom link, a projector and the cyc, he was very much present in the space. Libby stood in for Brian in the studio at times which helped me to get a physical sense of the duet as it evolved. Brian’s virtual presence and his ‘can do’ attitude were tangible at all times – even at a distance. I feel the themes took on an even more powerful significance with this enforced separation.

As the week progressed, the space between us as two bodies moving in space, the distance, connection, ripples was present in my mind. Ideas began to emerge of how the lighting design could enhance the sense of distance and boundaries in a shared space by the interplay of light dividing the performance space.

For the second half of the week Libby and I joined Brian in a separate studio where we began expanding our online choreographic ideas. Stefan stayed connected with us and continued to work from his home studio sending us on music files to inspire our movement creation. 

Throughout the week interesting lighting design, staging plans and costume ideas began to emerge. Our creative process was documented daily with video recordings and reports written by our mentor Libby. Film artist Conor Donelan joined us for a day to capture raw footage of the rehearsal room in action and some publicity shots that will be used to document the residency and promote ‘Threads’ on Nov 20th & 21st at Draíocht.

All in all our first week in the studio was a wonderfully satisfying and creatively rich experience, which is reflected in the work produced. Huge thanks to the creative team and all at Draíocht for the continued support and to our funders Fingal County Council and The Arts Council for making this possible.

‘Threads’ - Guest artist update:


UNSEEN’ by guest dance artist and Co Artistic Director of Croí Glan Tara Brandel.

Last week Tara was also immersed in her own R&D week at Ballina Arts Centre.

An ongoing research project by abstract painter and environmental artist Stacey White, and contemporary dancer Tara Brandel.

Drawing on research into plankton (a life giving microscopic organism that produces 50% of the world's oxygen), Unseen looks at benevolent and less benevolent invisible forces and the unseen. (A hidden disability. An invisible virus. A life giving microscopic organism). Layering video projection, movement, sound and painting, Unseen reveals that which is invisible.

Threads’ - Chance to Dance update:

‘Chance to Dance’ with Jess Rowell & film artist Conor Donelan

Our dance film project with Draíocht’s Create Dance members featuring dancers from Traces Dance Ensemble Co. Waterford continues online through weekly emails. Each participant receives a new creative task each week from Jess. Last week Brian McSweeney introduced himself ‘virtually’ to all the participants and we are awaiting their individual video responses. We are gearing up for the final stage of filming with the participants live in Draíocht in mid-October. All the footage we have compiled over the past few months will feature in the final film ‘Chance to Dance’. A film which explores and captures the power of communication through movement and the exchange of gestures between dancers in space and on camera.


Threads’ Triple Bill - Novemeber 20th & 21st at Draíocht - tickets on sale soon.


Jess Rowell’s Residency is supported by Fingal County Council and The Arts Council.


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