Liam Scanlon Associate Artist Dance Ireland

April 2017 Blog

As you walk in there’s the multi-layered sound of conversations, a high stool being dragged on the wooden floor, an empty glass placed back on the table. The fiddle is taken out of its case. The musician tunes it up, he plucks the odd string, adjusts himself in his chair, brings the instrument to his chin, rests the bow gently on the strings, closes his eyes and pauses. There’s a brief moment of anticipation before he draws the first, long sustained note and tentatively eases into his chosen tune. Gradually the confidence builds and he eases into a flow, his groove.

You feel the rhythms and dynamics and can almost see the music move around you, and through you. Feet tap, fingers drum, heads nod and lips hum as you lock in and are now on the same wave crest. People pass through the room, some stop, others keep moving. Conversations are on hold and replaced by yelps and cheers of encouragement and approval. The tempo builds and so does his driving of the tune with every change and lift. It’s not long before you know the moment is right and step onto the floor to move and create with the fiddler’s music.                                                                

To me it’s a conversation. The musician and dancer suss each other out. They connect through the music and eventually begin to improvise around it, in it and bounce off each other. They’re telling a story, their stories to each other and sharing with anyone who will listen.

This is what interests me. Who is in control of the moment? How much can one influence the other? Is it an equal partnership? How much is set and how what role does improvisation play on both sides? To what extent is the dancer a musician and the musician a dancer? And when do you know it’s the right moment or place to dance? How important is the context and the setting of where this conversation happens? And what role does the audience play?

Becoming Associate Artist at Dance Ireland this year, has afforded me the time and space to reflect on and engage with these ideas through my own dance practice. I’m currently collaborating with a fiddler, David Doocey, to explore some of these questions and hopefully share our discoveries through music and dance at First Looks in DanceHouse at the end of May.


“For the good are always the merry,

 Save by an evil chance,

And the merry love the fiddle

And the merry love to dance”


WB Yeats – The Fiddler of Dooney