It may have its detractors – sometimes with good cause – but Facebook can be a useful tool, says UK dancer and choreographer Theo Clinkard, who is in Galway this week rehearsing for a new show with local company Chrysalis Dance. Slings and Arrows will be staged in the city’s Black Box this Friday night.
It was through Facebook that Theo rediscovered his old friend and classmate, Judith Sibley with whom he had studied in the UK over 20 years ago, when both were students, firstly at the Elmhurst and then the Ramberg Ballet School.
Judith is the Artistic Director of Chrysalis Dance here in Galway, although she has taken a back seat in recent times to be with her daughter Lily-Mae Morrison, who is battling a rare and serious form of childhood cancer.
When Judith and Theo rediscovered each other via Facebook they found that both their lives had been visited by tragedy in recent years. While Judith is struggling to help Lily-Mae stay alive, Theo lost his mother to bone cancer three years ago. Two years earlier, a good friend of his had been killed in a road accident in London.
“Losing loved ones makes you get on with it,” says Theo of his decision to move into choreography after almost 20 years as a dancer and designer.
In those roles, he worked with leading companies in the UK and abroad, including the Matthew Bourne Dance Company, Wayne McGregor’s Random Dance Company, The Charles Linehan Company, Sydney Dance Company, Siobhan Davis Dance and the Mark Bruce Dance Company.
Before being bereaved, Theo had been reluctant to go down the road of creating his own shows – in his youth he had been intimidated by the prospect, then as he got more experience, he felt his approach might be too analytical.
But his background in performance, design and as a dance teacher was steering him in the direction of choreography – and losing loved ones gave him the impetus to do it.
Having already developed a reputation as a performer, Theo attracted attention last year for his touring show, Ordinary Courage, which he choreographed. The piece, about loss, toured to 14 venues in the UK and was very well-received, he says.
“My aim was to make a universal piece, because loss comes in all shapes and sizes. I wanted to make work that communicates with people – there are different kinds of communication and it’s important to make sure you have one eye on the audience when you are creating work.”
After that piece was performed in the UK – outside of London, because part of his plan was to connect with rural audiences and people living in cities other than the capital – he received several commissions to choreograph for different companies, something he’ll embark on once his project in Galway is complete.
Working with Chrysalis marks his first time in Galway, although he has previously performed at the Dublin Dance Festival and in Cork.
For this Friday’s double bill, he is creating a piece called Bow and Arrow, a work for six dancers, which will be accompanied by live music.
For more, read this week's Connacht Tribune.