March 2014

Composer Eric Satie once said, 'Before I compose a piece, I walk around it several times, accompanied by myself.' One can imagine a similar methodology employed by Junk Ensemble, the Irish dance company directed by twin sisters Jessica and Megan Kennedy. In their choreography, concepts are fully investigated, not with one-dimensional forensic meticulousness, but with a natural, almost whimsical, curiosity born from a willingness to see things from different perspectives.

In The Falling Song, the act of falling is presented through various lenses, from Newton's apple to Icarus's melting wings. It can be a physical stumble over a cracked pavement, a metaphoric state of falling in love or a psychological descent from power to powerlessness. Whatever the allusion, it is invariably caused by external uncontrollable factors, rather than freely chosen. But, suggest the choreographers, what if the act of falling is preceded by a jump? What if we freely choose to fall?

Aedin Cosgrove's visual setting, with curved metal and gnarled ropes that eerily resemble gallows, provides an invitation to transcend earth-bound monotony that the four male performers - Omar Gordon, Carl Harrison, Eddie Kay and Jesse Kovarsky - happily accept. The vulnerabilities within the male identity provide a prominent subtext, as the men get caught in an endless loop: personal insecurity leads to boisterous playfulness which leads to violent conflict which leads to personal insecurity.

Towards the end the dark undercurrent of suicide emerges as stiff-bodied performers slowly topple forward from the top of the set onto a pile of mattress. Even then, the choreographers are happy to let ambiguity reign, suggesting a sense of freedom in the act (as a sky-diver might release into the unknown) that should be embraced rather than feared. They also focus on that moment of instability before falling, that precarious state with the back of your heels on a precipice milliseconds before giving in to gravity.

The material is carefully paced, helped by Denis Clohessy's music, played with infectious vigour by George Higgs and his endless supply of mostly homemade percussion instruments. At times, a childrens' choir makes incursions onstage, flooding the space with giddy physicality and full-throated optimism.

In spite of the mixed cast and plethora of images and metaphors, the proceedings are controlled by a steady choreographic hand. As with other Junk Ensemble works, conceptual ingenuity is celebrated, but never self-satisfied. Megan and Jessica Kennedy make carefully crafted dances that suggest that things are never quite what they seem. There is an internal paradox in most things in our world and that simple truth is perfectly reflected in their straightforward manner of their presentation. As with most simple utterances, their productions also contain richly textured nuance and a sense of universality.