In Conversation with kabinet k and Junk Ensemble

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In lieu of a planned professional masterclass in Galway by renowned Belgian dance company, kabinet k, Baboró hosted an informal conversation between kabinet k and Irish dance company Junk Ensemble, creators of ‘The Veiled Ones’.

The Co-Artistic Directors of both companies discussed what inspires them to make work with and for children, the challenges and opportunities of creating dance in a global pandemic, and their plans for the future.

Katy Fitzpatrick is Adviser in the area of Young People, Children and Education at the Arts Council. She has worked for over fifteen years in arts education, in particular in gallery education, and has held positions in the Royal Hibernian Academy, Temple Bar Gallery + Studios, Tate London, Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane and the Irish Museum of Modern Art. She has held the position of Adviser to Young People Children and Education for the Arts Council since September 2018.

She has also lectured at Marino Institute of Education and tutored on the Professional Masters in Education programme at Maynooth University. Her main areas of interest are interdisciplinary, collaborative and participatory art practices, with a breadth of experience in gallery outreach and community-based programming. She has curated multiple programmes, events and exhibitions and has a particular interest in family and children’s engagement with contemporary art.

Junk Ensemble was founded by twin sisters and Artistic Directors Megan Kennedy and Jessica Kennedy. Based in Dublin, the company exists to engage diverse audiences through the creation and presentation of brave, imaginative and accessible dance-theatre work that sheds light on important human issues relevant to society today. Previous Artists-in-Residence at The Tate, the multi-award winning company have built a reputation in Ireland as dance innovators.

Junk Ensemble frequently collaborate with artists from other disciplines to produce a rich mix of visual and performance styles that challenge the traditional audience/performer relationship. This approach has led to productions being created in non-traditional or found spaces as well as more conventional theatre spaces. The company often work directly with communities in the creation and performance of their work.

Their work has toured to New York, Europe, and throughout the UK and Ireland. Junk Ensemble are Project Artists at Project Arts Centre and Cork Dance Artists-in-Residence at Firkin Crane.

Joke Laureyns and Kwint Manshoven are both choreographers, but their backgrounds are in philosophy and design respectively. In kabinet k they focus on dance productions with both professional dancers and children on the stage. Their dance is based on actual everyday actions and minor gestures interwoven with elements of play. The fact that the cast includes children makes their dance accessible to young and old. Each of their creations grows literally out of the steps that the young dancers take. It is precisely because the organic and intuitive are such an important aspect of their dance language that both these choreographers like to work with children and older people who are not marked, or only to a lesser degree, by certain patterns of behaviour or a specific dance technique. Both choreographers wish to treat dance in an adult way and let the child be a ‘child’. With no hint of a patronising approach: intelligence is not alien to children and dance is an art form that can appeal intuitively to children and adolescents.

Since 2002, the pair have created a series of productions under the wing of several large theatre companies, and they have built up a reputation on the ‘youth dance scene’: dromen hebben veters (fabuleus), shelter (Kopergietery), Martha Marthe (Kopergietery) and questo ricordo (CC Hasselt). In einzelgänger (-), unfold, i see you, a swallow song, raw and ba(b)bel, kabinet k is continuing to build up an oeuvre of fully-fledged productions for young audiences. Unfold and raw were both selected for the Theatre Festival. It was also these two pieces that put kabinet k on the international map. Since 2016, the group has been engaged in structural collaboration with hetpaleis in Antwerp. Horses was the first production to emerge from this; in early 2018 kabinet k made invisible there. In 2019, kabinet k is collaborating with composer Thomas Smetryns (LOD muziektheater) and hetpaleis, for as long as we are playing.