Cultures Come Together for Performance Project in West Belfast

Over the last six weeks a number of community organisations brought together different people living in West Belfast, those who are new to the area and those who are long-term residents, to work on a performance project which was showcased on Friday 29th and Saturday 30th March at An Culturlann on the Falls Road.

DU Dance (NI) collaborated with partners An Culturlann, Beyond Skin and Falls Women’s Centre – to involve women, teenage girls and children from several countries – including China, Ireland, Lebanon and Syria – in an exploration of the common experiences of those who lived in West Belfast in the height of The Troubles and those who have recently moved to the area from places of conflict or challenge.  The women’s stories of how they hold their family together in such circumstances were moulded into a dance theatre piece that the participants themselves performed under the aspirational title of “Faoileoireach” which means “to soar high”.

These women and young people, including pupils from Gaelscoil an Lonnain, had never performed before but shared the stage with professional musicians from Beyond Skin and singers from Clanmil Women’s Ensemble led by Siobhan Brown.

The capacity audience on both nights – of local people, family and friends – travelled this journey with the performers and fittingly on what the BBC is celebrating this week as #Dance passion one audience members remarked “such an emotional story beautifully told with such dedication and reverence, a truly moving experience.”

Aisling Ní Labhraí, Executive Director at Cultúrlann said “The use of physical movement and multiple languages to tell the story of these women and children is a magical concept. It celebrates the richness of cultural diversity and artistic expression whilst highlighting the human experience as a universal one. We have been delighted to partner with DU Dance (NI) on this wonderful project and hope that it will be the first of many.”

The project was made possible by a number of funders – Belfast City Council, Good Relations; Community Relations Council; Community Foundation Northern Ireland and The Honourable The Irish Society.

Chair of the Shared City Partnership Councillor John Kyle said “The telling of stories through dance and music can be both powerful and therapeutic, the effects made even greater when the experiences portrayed were born in conflict as this performance illustrates.”

Gavin O’Connor, Youth Arts Development Officer, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said, “The Arts Council is delighted to see this collaboration between three of our funded organisations which has brought communities in West Belfast closer together to tell their powerful and inspiring  stories through the arts.  Congratulations to all involved.”