Maiden Voyage Dance’s Manifesto at the MAC

Choreographer Dylan Quinn talks about his contribution to the exciting triple-bill of contemporary dance 

Enniskillen’s Dylan Quinn is representing Northern Ireland’s choreographic talent in Maiden Voyage Dance’s three-part production Manifesto, alongside England and Belgium’s Filip Van Huffel and Ireland and USA’s Luke Murphy. Quinn’s piece explores the interactions between men and women grappling with society’s expectations of them.

‘The brief was pretty open,’ Quinn recalls. ‘I just had to do something involving men or male identity.’

Part of what Maiden Voyage Dance hope to accomplish with Manifesto is encouraging teenage boys to participate in what is often considered a traditionally female art form. However, there are also two female dancers in the production, which altered Quinn’s initial plans for his piece.

The final concept was the idea of how women are objective and how that is seen through the male gaze.

‘It’s about how we view women,’ Quinn explains. ‘It’s also how they react to that, because women are often very aware of being watched.’

That’s something Quinn has observed very much in his own 8 year old daughter. ‘I was taking a picture of her and she posed with her head turned and her hip out,’ he recalls. ‘I asked her way she stood like that, and she said “that’s how you stand in pictures”.’

The Manifesto piece also explores how men behave around women. Quinn points out that in groups men replicate behaviour, ‘even if it something you wouldn’t do normally’.

The other two choreographers have taken different approaches, So far Quinn has only seen Filip Van Huffel’s fast-paced ‘Picture in a Frame’, which was at the Ulster Museum last year. He did share a stage with Luke Murphy’s contemporary take on the ballet ‘Les Noces’ at the Dublin Fringe Festival, but ‘we shared a curtain. I was on the wrong side to see anything’. Nevertheless, he is confident that the three pieces will work well together on stage. ‘It’s going to be a nice trilogy.’

For the 38 year old Quinn Manifesto is the latest in a long history of collaboration with the ten year old dance company.

‘I worked on In Her Shoes with them and 4 Quartet, another group production, and a number of other shows. I’ve also danced in one or two,’ Quinn recalls. In fact, when Quinn first returned to Enniskillen after several years training and performing in the UK and Europe, Maiden Voyage Dance was one of only a few dance companies in Northern Ireland. ‘Very little was happening. There was very little development going on other than with Maiden Voyage Dance. There was actually less going on than when I’d left.’

It was that stagnation in the dance industry here that encouraged Quinn, who had only temporarily while his partner had a baby, to remain in Northern Ireland. He could see the ‘opportunity for growth’ here and wanted to encourage it, particularly in Fermanagh. That is why he founded his own dance company, Dylan Quinn Dance Theatre, in Enniskillen.

It was, after all, support from the local dance community, and a supportive principal at his school, that helped start Quinn’s career. Mags Byrne, now the artistic director of the Du Dance company, was running a dance group in Enniskillen that Quinn joined.

Mostly, he admits with a grin, because he fancied a girl that was already there and it seemed a good way to ask her out. ‘I was into theatre and dance, though,’ he says. ‘I wanted to dance and I wanted to get the girl.’

Quinn is looking forwards to making his professional (having worked on a community project at the MAC in 2012) debut on the MAC stage with Manifesto.

‘The MAC has always been a great supporter of developing and bringing dance to Northern Ireland.’

Manifestocan be seen at the MAC downstairs in Belfast on February 7, at the Waterside Theatre in Derry~Londonderry on February 8, Burnavon Arts Centre in Cookstown on February 12, the Market Place Theatre in Armagh on February 13, ISLAND Arts Centre in Lisburn on February 15 and the Down Arts Centre in Downpatrick on February 16.