Kildare Arts Service : Press Releases : Press Releases 2021

Kildare Dance Research Residency 2020-21 - A Creative Journey

We are delighted to publish an article by Choreographer Philippa Donnellan, who shares the experiences of her Dance Research Residency, supported by Kildare Arts Service. The Kildare Dance Research Residency is supported by The Arts Council / An Comhairle Ealaíon


Following an award by Kildare County Council Arts Service, I was excited to embark on BODY OF WORK, a new movement research project exploring themes of work via engagement with different communities in Kildare and beyond. Beginning in autumn 2020 and running until this summer 2021, my first steps to connect had its challenges! However there has been much goodwill and support from local people and from Co Kildare Arts Service. This made research feasible (and all the more enjoyable), and over the course of several months, enabled engagement with people from both rural and urban areas. Zoom soon became the new norm – and despite rarely being able to dance live or meet people over a cuppa, an interesting journey of discovery slowly unfolded.

Amongst many, I met local members of Arthritis Ireland who enthusiastically embraced the confines of zoom to dance – and to speak about the physical impact of work on their lives. Young mums came along to THE SOCIAL SESSIONS, a series of online taster workshops co-led by me and Kildare-based dance artist Ailish Claffey, to dance, relax and share experiences of being a working mother – and family life in lockdown. I was fortunate to connect with two fabulous Kildare musicians Sadbh O’Sullivan and Sharon Murphy and to meet (online), their wonderful older – age group Voices of Spring Community Choir and to hear their experiences about work and the changes that had taken place within their lifetime. During research I had valuable opportunity to speak with artists including theatre/film maker John Conway and visual artist Katherina Hughes and to learn about their respective practices and impressive artistic projects with the older community at Naas Day Care Centre.

A fortuitous connection was also made with expert theatre artist Leish Burke, Director of Griese Youth Theatre based in Ballitore, who kindly introduced me to young GYT actor Aoife Barrett. This led to fruitful (and fun) research with Aoife and Leish, and provided much insight about work and what it means to young people living in a rural community at this time. In terms of employment, it also revealed the importance of local industries such as Glanbia Ireland dairy producers, as the main employer within Ballitore. These discoveries inspired creation of new, untold stories. With professional film maker/dance artist Cathy Coughlan and photographer Anthony Griffin on board to document, we have begun to develop a short pilot DIGITAL DANCE MONOLGUE entitled Milk White performed by Aoife Barrett – watch this space for more news about this project!

Safe to say, I have just scratched the surface of research with many more stories and themes to uncover. Without doubt, the project has signalled that there is plenty of public demand for dance and arts activity - so it is with interest and enthusiasm that I look forward to the next step of my Kildare journey.


Philippa Donnellan

July 2021

Image: Online Taster Workshop with Voices of Spring choir, 2021. Image credit: Philippa Donnellan.

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