Jean Butler mightn’t seem a newcomer to the dance world. Eleven years ago she first performed Riverdance to a television audience of 300 million. But it’s been two years since she returned to study a MA in contemporary dance and she is now ready to perform her new contemporarybased work outside the protectiveness of academia. Initial informal showings of an incipient solo demonstrate how much she has soaked up contemporary forms and merged them with her traditional step dancing. The result isn’t fusion.
“Fusion is like an excuse, an apology for one or other of the art-forms that you are joining up,” she has said. “You suggest insufficiency. I’m looking for something that’s quite pure and unique.”
Merging traditional and contemporary forms has been dangerous ground in Irish dance, but most of the sins have been committed by ballet and contemporary practitioners who have felt its enough to scatter some folk steps and patterns into their vocabulary. The slow deep
investigation that Butler – and ex-Riverdance co-star Colin Dunne – have undertaken shows a respect for both forms.
Butler’s upcoming debut solo received support from the Irish Arts Council and Project Arts Centre, a home for ...