When Colin Dunne began his contemporary dance training he found that it contradicted rather than complemented his competitive Irish dance skills. Through these new disciplines his rigid arms and torso were released and his legs softened, yet artistically he remained in a sort of no-man’s-land. Successful roles with contemporary dance groups brought his step-dancing experience into the black box, but evidence of Dunne’s personal aesthetic journey remained elusive – until Out of Time.
This new solo show is an intimate, sincere and funny artistic calling card that sums up why he is who he is and how he is where he is. He is joined onstage by vaporous co-performers in the form of projected black-and-white images of Áine Ní Thuathaigh, Paddy Ban O Bróin and three men in Englishman Greville Squires’s twee documentary on Irish dancing. These aren’t included to earn historical kudos, nor are they presented with an insincere reverence and respect, but rather they are introduced as fellow step-dancing journeymen who happened to live in another time. In purging the vocabulary of competitive Irish dance it would be easy – and, for revisionists, expected – to rail against tradition. But though it might appear that Dunne and Irish dance have a love-hate relationship, the reality is less two-dimensional. He has no high art/low art hang-ups, so is happy to judge Celebrity Jigs’n’Reels while being nominated best modern dancer by the London Critics’ Circle for his role parodying himself in Fabulous Beast’s The Bull
This all leads to an openness to new influences and a richness in material. With microphones used to digitally delay sounds, ghostly echoes are created. Toe pitter-pats, swishing leg swings and resonant heel thuds pile up in layers until they resemble a backing ensemble. Image and sound are carefully harnessed, never distracting from the live body and harmonising well with the tenor of the dancing. There’s flippant humour throughout, yet Dunne has never been more serious, virtuoso dancing as well as hands-down-the-trousers microphone removal.
The moment of liberation comes at the end as he circles the space, running barefoot and leaping with abandon, yet this, strangely, feels less believable than the previous hour, as if something is being held back.