A standing ovation for MÁM in Mullahoran.

Teac Damsa dazzle in Mullahoran GFC

- Reviewed by Tom Conaty -

Having seen ‘The Dance’, a film documentary, by Pat Collins, on the making of Mám, by Michael Keegan-Dolan, we were determined to be on time, to get a good seat at the Town Hall Cavan/ Backstage Longford offsite production at Mullahoran, last Saturday at 8pm.

We were in the car park at 7.20pm. Just ourselves and one other car. Doors locked, no lights on. Just as well we enquired across the road in the shop. Wrong place, wrong hall. It was supposed to be the GAA one we were at. We advised Ruth and her mother in the other car.

We headed for the hall. And it’s some spot. A GAA complex in the middle of nowhere. A credit to this historic club, to the parish, to County Cavan. Maybe not traditionally know as a venue for modern dance but tonight that didn’t matter. The place was hoppin’. Car park full. Long queues. Full hall. Raked seats to the back and the expansive performance. An elevated platform for the musicians. We needn’t have worried about seats. Each one had a vantage point with a panoramic view. You could see this was a moveable feast made for the road and at home in such a hall as Mullahoran GFC. The programming of this show in this venue was inspired, courageous and ambitious and the vision of Padraic McIntyre of Townhall Cavan and Mona Considine of Backstage Longford must be commended.

Lights down. A little girl in a white dress enters, so delicate, so beautiful, lies out on a table. Empty stage. A man walks on, takes his place among a scatter of concertinas on the floor. He picks up, puts on the Ram’s head. With concertina in hand, he plays breathing into it. In and out, in and out, sucking up a G note from the depths of the earth below, the depths of knowing instincts, mythology – the music that happens in another realm.

The child awakens, watches intently as an ensemble of dancers take up their places, don masks and flick heads of recognition to each other, to the now staccato breath of the concertina, in the attuned and playful hands of Cormac Begley, master craftsman, master builder, holding the centre. He plays us back to where the air, the airs come from. Accompanies by Stargaze, an ensemble of wondrous musicians , he plays joy, melancholy, intimacy and discord, stillness and skittishness, sensuousness and violence and the dancers, in individual virtuoso performances, duets, ensemble match the moods, create unforgettable images.

The dance comes alive, pulses. The child, in rapt attention, is enveloped in a dream, unmediated pure. The delirium and the joy of life, in all its forms, and the hope of the divine child at the heart of it all, elevated on the alter of a kitchen table where all the impulses, the senses, pull up a chair to feast

The word MÁM can mean ‘obligation’, ‘yore’ and more commonly a mountain pass. I prefer the idea of a gap, the liminal in between space of becoming. Neither here nor there, above or below but the shapeshifting, image making place of transition. This place of transformation is full of dangers but teaming with possibility. We have a duty, a moral imperative to go there. We’d do well to mind the gap.

On departure we meet Ruth and her mother in the car park. I ask her what she thinks ‘Truth, absolute truth in everything’ she says. Who could disagree? My step is lighter back to the car, indeed since.