Breandán de Gallaí: This is What’s Happening

Dancer, choreographer, company director, teacher and reseacher, Breandán de Gallaí isn't sitting idle these days. He did manage to take some time to catch-up with us before his next performance, workshop and conference! 


What do you have on in the next 2 months:

My company Ériu and I will perform my interpretation of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring at the Cork Midsummer festival on Friday the 22nd of June (2pm and 7pm). We also have performances at the Earagail Arts Festival in Donegal: 

Amharclann Ghaoth Dobhair Derrybeg on the 20th July and  An Grianán Theatre Letterkenny on Saturday the 21st.

Limerick Institute of Technology will host Dance Research Forum Ireland’s 7th biennial conference on the 29th & 30th June and the 1st of July. As Chair I will have a busy weekend welcoming many eminent dance practitioners and scholars to present work and research, some coming from as far away as Georgia USA and Australia.

That will be followed by an annual week-long Irish dance workshop in Aix-en-Provence. This will be our 10th anniversary of the initiative.

The remainder of July (apart from the Donegal performances of Rite) will be spend preparing for our national tour of Aon in November.

Aon (Gaeilge: One; Single; Any) is a large-ensemble work which spins an intriguing narrative through a tapestry of visuals, sounds, text, music, and contemporary Irish dance choreography. The show illustrates the human journey towards belonging using the digital age as metaphor. Centered around a selection of archetypal characters – their histories and personal narratives movingly familiar – we experience the pitfalls and challenges associated with navigating what can be a lonely road in search of connection. Harnessing postures and idiosyncrasies associated with the new media age, each character communicates an aspirational and longed-for ‘brand me’ – an imagined and constructed identity – eventually confronting the delusion of presenting themselves as someone slightly ‘better, and coming to terms with who they really are. 

The show is not a critique of the network society, nor does it bemoan the negative attributes of the internet. It poignantly reminds us of this ever-present and very human instinct of performing versions of ourselves that others might be more comfortable with, the culture of the technological age simply bringing that behaviour into sharper focus. 

Aon is about identifying who we really are; the me that longs to be seen. At the heart of this is connection, or lack there-of. Connection is why we are here; it is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. 

Aon challenges us to strive for a sense of worthiness, to fully embraced vulnerability, to be willing to let go of who we think we should be in order to be who we are. The show climaxes with catharsis ... an unmasking ... a shedding of armour ... a dance of liberation ... an embrace of our authentic selves, unburdened by the imagined and projected constructs of others.


You have A LOT on the go at the moment. What’s a day in your life looking like?


7 – 9pm Breakfast and emails

9 – 10pm I like to hang in Laine my Love beside DanceHouse to continue with the never-ending administration.

10pm – 12/1pm Studio time – sometimes alone creating new work, or rehearsing upcoming performance work with Ériu company dancers.

I take 2 gymnastic classes a week, which I’ve just taken up, and I love it. I also go to the gym twice a week.

I teach adult evening classes in DanceHouse and in Liffey Trust.

Every so often I need to travel to the University of Limerick where I am Adjunct Lecturer.


How did you get involved with Dance Research Forum Ireland?

I was initially asked to present on my dance practice by Dr. Catherine Foley at the DRFI Conference in 2006. I was the external examiner for the MA in Dance Performance at the time. In 2009, as I was finishing an MA in Ethnochoreology in UL, I was elected to sit on the board, and in 2014 I became Chair. I saw my big contribution to the society as bringing our biennial conference outside of Ireland for the first time. In 2016, DRFI had its conference in New York University in partnership with NYU Tisch Department of Dance, NYU Tisch Department of Performance Studies, Steinhardt Dance Education, Glucksman Ireland House, with the kind support Irish Arts Center, The Consulate General of Ireland New York, and The Ireland Funds 


How long have you been working on Rite of Spring?

I initially created Rite of Spring for my Arts Practice PhD in 2012. We performanced the piece outside Cavan Cathedral for the opening of Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann. I had been developing it in dribs and drabs throughout my time in UL, experimenting with ideas using the students in the Irish World Academy.

This new interpretation required re-working some of the choreography and re-doing sections completely. It highlights how vulnerability is at the root of toxic masculinity. It encourages us to question taught social norms entrenched in discrimination and tradition, convention and habit, and insists that we refuse to follow practices purely because ‘they were always so’.

Although it is very bleak, there are glimmers of hope throughout – unexpected and risky moments when someone takes a stand and acts decisively and confidently – change, frightening and all as it seems, might be a good thing. Central to the show is the notion that it is fine to break with tradition and create new ones, that can also be broken.


What has the rehearsal process been like? How has it (or has it?) differed from previously rehearsals?

The main difference is how little time we had to put it together. Only one of the original dancers is back in this version. We had very little funding, so I got the company up to speed on the material through workshops. We rehearsed for 3 days in the BackStage Longford, and the dancers did brilliantly considering there was so little time. It’s a very complex score – there are hardly any predictable melodic or rhythmic patterns – and it requires quite a bit of emotional investment from the performers, which is difficult with so much material to remember.


Where are you touring to? 

Cork Midsummer Festival

Venue: Firkin Crane

Dates/Times: Friday the 22nd of June (2pm and 7pm).


Earagail Arts Festival

Venue: Amharclann Ghaoth Dobhair Derrybeg

Dates/Times: 20th July (8pm)


Venue: An Grianán Theatre Letterkenny

Dates/Times: 21st July (8pm)


You tour regularly, what advice would you give to someone going on their first tour?

It costs a lot more than you think, and make sure the venue has everything you need. They don’t always have a marley/projector/etc. It’s a good idea to be able to get in in 1 day.
Marketing is very important, and you may have to do a lot of this work yourself.


For more information on Breandán de Gallaí visit his company wesbite Eriu