Dancing at Lughnasa – by Brian Friel

This is my favourite part of the film. The dance scene [Act 1]. I shall be watching it again over the weekend. There is always great expression of hope via dancing where oppression is concerned. These women express the angst, the torment; the rigidity of their lives, the lack of freedom, their being tied down, the way society sees them as nonentities through their every steps. They become high on a potion of temporary happy madness, that releases all the pent-up frustration of daily life in rural lreland and what better time than at Lughnasa.

The women go into a trance like state, they become euphoric, as if they were on morphine, and everything just goes. To hell with the men, to hell with the problems of life, to hell with repressed sexuality, just for the moment they let every thing hang loose. Yeah, dance, dance where ever you may be, I’m the goddess of Lughnasa who’ll set you free.

Dancing at Lughnasa is on the Leaving Cert curriculum. The film takes artistic licence with the dancing. As do a lot of films in general  The film industry must appeal to the box-office. My tutor brought that aspect across to me very strongly, so I always make sure not to mix up the two.

Here is what actor Doug Krehbe from the Quotidian theatre site in America has to say regarding the dancing in the play. [BTW, great name for a theatre.]

During our rehearsal, I watched in Act 1 as the sisters danced madly and joyously around their tiny cottage in pre-war Ireland. Five amazing women whooped and cantered and flew and laughed like children around our rehearsal space to tinny music from the director’s laptop. And then I waltzed through the garden with the beautiful Rebecca Ellis (playing Chris), as we felt the other sisters watch disapprovingly yet enviously from the windows. And I watched as our Father Jack created a ceremony in far-away Africa with just a pair of sticks and his splendid imagination. And even as I drew a blank on the opening choreography of “Anything Goes” in Act 2 and flummoxed about with the grace of a hippo on methadone, my partner, Laura Russell’s sweet Agnes, made it all work. Dance is release. Dance, like Friel’s gorgeous memory play, is a way to capture the pure feeling of a moment. Lughnasa’s ghostly sisters and the men who orbit around them know this. They dance like no one’s watching. And what begins as a technical chore, somehow morphs into a beautiful thing. That’s why we do this – spend spring evenings in stifling rehearsal rooms, stepping (literally and figuratively) on one another’s toes. If you come across me at the next wedding you go to, I’ll probably still be leaning on the bar, trying to look invisible. But maybe not. Some occasions, like the Lughnasa festival, need more than words alone.
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One thought on “Dancing at Lughnasa – by Brian Friel

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