Friday, 31 August 2012

Si's Sights And Sounds Meets: Bridget Madden

The Belfast-based dancer talks about what makes her tick, her influences, and her recent Stateside experience

Tell us a little about yourself.

Hello! My name is Bridget Madden and I am a dancer, choreographer and teacher of Irish and contemporary fusion dance based in Belfast. Since graduation, I have toured worldwide with Irish dance productions, been part of a theatre company ensemble, and collaborated both nationally and internationally with different artists in various forms of dance and media, like film, music and aerial dance.

How did you get involved in dancing?

It all began around twenty-two years ago, when I fell in love with ballet and tap dancing as a two-year old. I then did most of my grades before starting out in Irish dance at the age of eight. Even though I didn't know where I was going at the time, I felt that I just had to dance, and I saw a career in it for me. From that moment on, I've won numerous awards while my dancing skills, ideas and understanding of the world of dance have developed, and continued to do so. In the past few years, I've noticed a shift in my commitment to create and in my ability to choreograph, which has always been the gift. My initial inspiration was Kate Bush, who continues to inspire me to this day.

Of all your dance experiences to date, which has been your most enjoyable, and why?

I could say the tours, the chances to work with many diverse people in all kinds of media, or performing my first solo work at the Dublin Dance Festival. But what makes me tick is when one of the children you are teaching is inspired by you, listens and improves as a result. It's that one person out of the whole audience who comes up to you at the end and says, "Thank you, you were great. I couldn't take my eyes off you", that makes it worth it. If it gives them a different perspective on the world for that one moment, then my job is done. The colleagues that understand your process and believe in it too, that’s what counts. The stitch in between the patterns.

Who do you think has influenced you most as a teacher, choreographer and performer, and why?

Lots of people inspire me. I don't hold a pinnacle to anyone in particular because everyone's advice and ideas are as important as everyone else’s. Two people who stand out for me are Steve Batts and Ursula Laeubli, the co-founders of the Echo Echo Dance Theatre company. They mentored me both at university and during my time with Echo Echo. Through them, I learnt about choreography, technique, how to use my body, how to read other bodies, and more. Today, I both understand the process that I went through and resonate with the work they did.

Why do you think dance is important as a performance art?

For me, dance creates a texture, tone and colour for something that cannot be expressed otherwise. There's no instrument to stand behind, no sheets of music, no character to be. It's just you on that stage, and with it, you bring everything you have. Every experience in your life fits into that moment, into your dance, and I think that's beautiful. For me, it's the most honest expression one can give. If you want to understand someone, just watch them dance.

You're currently spending the summer in New York. Tell us more...

Yes! I am working with The D'Amby Project based in Red Hook, in Upstate New York. I was invited by Leighann Kowalsky, the founder and director of the company, to come and choreograph, perform and teach with the company for three months during the summer. In conjunction with Kowalsky, I have choreographed new pieces called "Que Lastima" and "An Tobar", which have so far been performed at festivals and venues in the area as part of showcases. I am working with a group of extremely passionate people who want to make a difference in the world, and will, so it's an honour for me to be a part of that.

Dancers from the NY D'Amby Project. From left to right: Hannah Tobias, Bridget Madden, Rowan Willigan and Christy Kowalsky

Do you believe your Stateside venture has helped you in your development as a dancer both personally and professionally?

Extremely so! It's given me the chance to meet new people, network with other US professionals and help children improve their own dancing skills while presenting me with a platform to create and produce new work of my own. Every day, I grow as a dancer, and especially now I have been working with extraordinary people with talent, enthusiasm and creativity.

What does the future hold in store for Bridget Madden?

More, more, more! I want to keep growing, creating, producing and working with lots of different people. I will be producing an Irish residency for The D'Amby project in the spring of 2013, in which they will travel to Ireland to tour and show their work across the country, in addition to taking workshops with local schools and professional groups. There's lots of things happening over here and I want Ireland to see what New Yorkers are doing with their dance form, it's mind-blowing! So many ideas, so little time.

Bridget Madden will be in residency with the D’Amby project throughout the remainder of the summer. For more information, check out her official site.