In Conversation with Fiona Quilligan on Window Woman
Window Woman, performed by Justine Cooper, Zelda Francesca, Lucia Kickham, and Maria Nilsson Waller, plays with ideas of duality; from the sensual body to McKenna’s female warriors of early Irish society, who give and receive the wisdoms of life.
Always resilient in conflict, they are resourceful and flexible in mind and body. McKenna’s sculptures loom over the dance with a life giving force inspiring an impassioned earth-driven ritual of empowerment.
When did the idea for this work begin?
Actually, I had written about meeting the sculpture James McKenna in the 90ties, and our shared interest in each other's work and indeed the story of helping him install his figures in the woods at Fernhill. A number of things triggered the work I wanted to honour him and bring his work to the foreground and perhaps show how much he inspired me in my own creative process over a number of years. His incredible vision in realising his figures in many media from bronze, stone, wood. His enthusiasm for supporting my dance work ....he suggested to me once that he wanted dancers to pour out of the body of one of his great wooden horses in movement - a bit like the horse of Troy.
What was the moment when you realised now is the time to do this work?
James McKenna was a member of Aosdana and indeed nominated me 18 years ago so with my recent election to Aosdana I thought it would be a nice way of honouring and calling him back into my creative process. I thought now is the time to thank him for his support of dance and the discipline of choreography.
When you work, do you know what you want to create ahead of time – choreographically – or does it come to you in the studio?
I work from inside and out which means I can visualise the structure of the work in advance and even have a lot of visual dreams of the movement. Coming together with the dancers fleshes out movement vocabulary and can be very creatively stimulating in the creative process
Are your dancers your muses or do you feel they bring your concept to life?
Coming together with the dancers fleshes out movement vocabulary and can be very stimulating in the creative process; it is like seeing something in the flesh limb upon the limb.....the presence of each dancer their personality and physical embodiment that brings the work into focus.
How would you describe your choreographic style? Has it changed over the years? Has this had an influence on the dancers you work with?
I suppose my choreographic style has changed over the years. I now sense and look for a more reduced essential movement quality...something pure.
In earlier works, (many of them on pointe) they were technically demanding with a visceral energetic quality to the movement. As you get older you slow down a bit and look into the movement deeper.
But of course, the irony is even the simplest of movement is technically demanding!
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