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2018 Awards

Musical Collaboration

This Gradam goes to a courageous collaboration that grasps the complex music of Tommy Potts and his iconic recording, The Liffey Banks.
It is a courageous collaboration led by one of our leading Irish traditional dancers, Colin Dunne. Directed by Sinéad Rushe, with soundscore from acclaimed composer Mel Mercier, Colin’s dancing grasps the complex music of Tommy Potts


created by Colin Dunne with Sinéad Rushe and Mel Mercier


This Gradam goes to a courageous collaboration that grasps the complex music of Tommy Potts and his iconic recording, The Liffey Banks.

It is a courageous collaboration led by one of our leading Irish traditional dancers, Colin Dunne. Directed by Sinéad Rushe, with soundscore from acclaimed composer Mel Mercier, Colin’s dancing grasps the complex music of Tommy Potts. Although renowned for its subtle, emotional and spirited qualities, this album’s rhythmical irregularity renders it practically impossible to dance to – or so it would seem.

The collaboration of Dunne, Rushe and Mercier set out to achieve what some may have deemed impossible, yet the result, though complex is breath-taking, insightful, respectful, as well as highly entertaining.

There are parallels between both Potts and Dunne. Both are very committed to their craft, but are not fearful of breaking the boundaries. With this work, we get a sense of the huge challenge that they have set upon themselves similar to what Potts went through with his own music.

The direction by Rushe, along with Mercier’s sensitive sound contribution is remarkably profound and respectful to Tommy Potts’s legacy. Colin Dunne deserves great credit for achieving what he set-out to do. For this we grant this year’s Gradam Comharcheoil to CONCERT.


This year’s Gradam Comharcheoil brings us to the outer edges of where virtuoso traditional music, traditional dance and contemporary dance interact and probe each other’s essence. In his new solo work Irish dance artist Colin Dunne confronts the music of virtuoso traditional Irish fiddle player, Tommie Potts (1912-1988) whose 1972 album, The Liffey Banks, stands out as an iconic solo fiddle album. Potts’ music reflects both his deep appreciation of traditional music and his irrepressible instinct to dissect and rebuild it.  Potts’ music is admired for its immaculate technical and emotional power as well as its delicate, melancholic and playful qualities.  Its apparent disregard for conventional rhythm means that the music itself is practically impossible to dance to. This is one of the creative challenges that dance artist Colin Dunne, collaborating with director Sinéad Rushe and composer/sound designer Mel Mercier, sets out to confront in CONCERT. Armed with an LP copy of The Liffey Banks, a tape recorder, portable speakers and some sheets of flooring, Dunne embodies the lonesome and deviant nature of these recordings in his innovative style that is as evocative and idiosyncratic as Potts’s own.

CONCERT was first performed at the 2017 Dublin Dance Festival where it has a successful run at Project Arts Centre, attracting enthusiastic audiences that included musicians and dance artists from all genres. The Irish Times gave CONCERT a fiv e-star review, commenting that “Concert isn’t a pitched battle of dancer versus musician, rather a dialogue with Potts as artist to artist.

The conversation is warm, funny, respectful and at times irreverent.”

Colin Dunne was born in 1968 in Birmingham and he currently lives in Limerick. Born to Irish parents, from an early age Colin was surrounded by Irish music, dance and culture. He began dancing when he was three years old and he won his first World Championship title when he was nine. Colin was the first dancer to win the World, All England and All Ireland titles in the same year. From early on, Colin was influenced by tap dance and this has shaped his innovative approach to responding to the rhythmic structures of traditional Irish music.  Colin took a B.Sc. in Economics at Warwick University before going on to work as a trainee accountant at the Birmingham offices of Arthur Andersen. The world of traditional music and dance increased greatly in value when Colin resigned from Arthur Andersen on the day he became a qualified Chartered Accountant to go on a month long tour of Canada with The Chieftains. He has worked as a dance artist ever since, touring the globe and performing at the highest level with artists including The Chieftains, De Dannan, Jean Butler, Stéphane Grappelli and Riverdance. He toured as principal soloist with Riverdance for three years, taking the show to its USA premieres and to Australia. Since 2002 Colin has been a regular guest tutor at the University of Limerick and has toured his Masterclass within Europe and to the USA, Russia, Shanghai and Beijing. His first full-length solo show Out of Time (2008) was a multi-disciplinary work combining dance, text, sound technology and archival film footage and was premiered at Glór Irish Music Centre in Ennis, Co Clare.

Colin’s ability to forge and sustain a career in dance at this level is remarkable and shows the strength of his creativity, resilience and vision. Colin’s work is recognised and supported by The Arts Council/An Comhairle Ealaíon and he continues to create and produce ambitious new work that challenges traditional music’s conventions, perceptions and boundaries.

Sinéad Rushe is a theatre director, performer and teacher. She studied at Trinity College, Dublin, École Normale Supérieure, Paris before training as an actor at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, London where she currently teaches on the BA Acting CDT programme, specialising in the Michael

Chekhov Technique and Meyerhold’s Biomechanics. Directing credits include Loaded at Jacksons Lane, Gogol’s Diary of a Madman with Living Pictures at Sherman Cymru in Cardiff, Something or Nothing with Guy Dartnell at The Place Theatre commissioned by Sadler’s

Wells and Out of Time by Colin Dunne, performed at The Pit, Barbican, The Baryshnikov Arts Centre, New York and an international tour. She has directed three shows with her own company, out of Inc: Night-Light (Oval House, London, Bristol Old Vic and tour), Life in the Folds (BAC, London and tour), and An Evening with Sinéad Rushe (BAC, London). Sinéad is the author of The Michael Chekhov Approach to Acting: A Practitioner’s Guide, (forthcoming,Methuen 2017), the co-translator into French of four plays by Howard Barker (published by Editions Théâtrales, Paris) and is a former Ulster and All Ireland Irish dance champion.

Mel Mercier is a well known figure in traditional music as performer, academic and composer. Mel learned to play the bodhrán and bones from his father, Peadar Mercier, and throughout the 1980’s Mel and his father performed with the influential American experimental composer John Cage and the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, performing Cage’s ambitious Roaratorio: An Irish Circus on Finnegan’s Wake in the UK, Europe and North America. As a traditional musician Mel is probably best known for his performances over the last 35 years with pianist and composer Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin. Since March 2016 he has held the Chair of Performing Arts at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, University of Limerick and before (1992-2016) that he was lecturer/Head of School and Professor of Music at University College Cork, where he specialised in Irish traditional music, ethnomusicology, Javanese gamelan, Indian classical music and Ewe dance drumming(Ghana).

Mel is a composer for theatre and was nominated for a Tony Award and won the New York Drama Desk Award for his sound score for The Testament of Mary on Broadway in 2012.

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