Dancing in the Street: Comparing Amy Conroy’s ‘Eternal Rising of the Sun’ and Jean Butler’s ‘Hurry’
It’s been a few weeks since I saw Eternal Rising of the Sun at Axis Ballymun, written and performed by Amy Conroy and directed by Veronica Coburn. Ever since then the performance has been going around in my head. I knew I wanted to write about it, but I couldn’t put my finger on what aspect of it. Class-integration using performance? Confidence and self-fulfilling prophecies? How an audience relates to a lone, sad, everyday character? Every topic seemed overdone and empty, and I was afraid that the fantastic performance I had witnessed would go unanalysed and undocumented.
That is, until I saw Jean Butler’s Hurry at Project Arts Centre, choreographed under the direction of John Kinzel. Immersed in the piercing and abrasive soundtrack while Jean Butler (of Riverdance fame) danced the life of a city on a bare stage, I saw the two performances snap together, acting as each other’s secret foils. The character of awkward sassy/trashy trackie-wearing Gina Devine at first couldn’t seem further apart from the formidable grace and internationally-recognised talent of Jean Butler, but as Butler began the performance, stretching and pointing her body in an invisible angular cage, all I could hear in my head was the character of Gina Devine tensely exhaling ‘G…I…N…A….’. Both of these performances tell the story of a city, at street level, in seemingly opposite ways that come full circle to meet again, with talent and elegance crunching into the gravel of an urban scene.
In Hurry, Butler becomes the city. She is the swaggering teenager, aggressively crossing your path; she is the sinuous lady in red you spot in a crowd, winding her way further away from you; she is a mass of barely-awake commuters on the Luas. She is exhaustion, sleeplessness, reluctance and caffeine-fueled energy, wrapped up in a quickly unravelling blanket of everyday routine. She sets the scene for Gina Devine: she is the city that envelops a coarse, exquisite rough diamond of a personality. While Butler conveys anonymity, flickering effortlessly between an urban landscape and representations of individual city-goers, Gina represents a fiercely individual personality that refuses to be part of that routine.
And then dance brings them together. Though Gina is awkward, showing flashes of passionate elegance through her ungainliness while Butler is clear-cut, technically sharp and always held in perfect balance, both allow the city to travel through tense muscles out onto the audience. Butler’s stage becomes every means of public transport, every pavement, every restless weeknight bedroom; Gina’s becomes every lonely moment in a pulsating nightclub, every minimum-wage job, and a room that exists in an uncomfortable state of a perpetual, claustrophobic weekend.
Both these solo performances represent the soul of a city, and stories that live in wads of gum on the pavement, stubbed out cigarettes and fast-paced bodies grasping take-away coffees. After seeing both of these performances, I realise that their titles tie them together perfectly in representing the life of a city denizen: everyday we hurry to to meet the eternal rising of the sun.
Hurry was performed at Project Arts Centre as part of the Dublin Dance Festival.
Eternal Rising of the Sun was performed at Axis Ballymun, and is finishing it’s current HotForTheatre’s tour at Draioght Arts Centre on 24th May. It will return as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival in September.