Reviewer: Maryam Philpott
Having barely left our houses for a year, visually Brian Gillespie’s three-minute dance piece Of Simple Stone performed in Grianán of Aileach, a stone fort in County Donegal has an extra magic. For city dwellers in particular, the rolling and luscious landscape is especially appealing and perhaps inadvertently Gillespie’s piece for a trio of dancers feels more like a ‘Visit Ireland’ advertorial than a contemporary dance short.
Set to the poem Home by Liam Porter read in soft tones by Gillespie, this brief piece is particularly notable for its frantic camerawork, mixing aerial views of the stunning circular fort with segments filmed within its many levels and around its edge, using the choreography to reflect the layered grey stone structure and its ancient properties.
A first section explores size and shape as the three dancers come into contact with the stone walls at different heights while using reaching and stretching movements to shape their bodies to reflect its circular structure. Gillespie employs several changes of pace to combine solo segments, coordinated sequences and opportunities for the dancers to interact, lean on one another and perform partner movements.
Gillespie, who also directs, builds on this connection with landscape and nature by framing his dancers against a sunset as their silhouetted figures adopt a balletic fluidity, after which a music-video inspired finale shows the dancers from different angles frenetically spliced together.
As Of Simple Stone trails off into the mist, the film clearly aligns the richness and mystical qualities of the landscape with its role in identity shaping. But the dancing feels secondary to that, and the choreographic concept less well developed than the striking visuals that will make you long for the Irish countryside.