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By Deirdre Mulrooney
Friday May 21 2010
IT'S a brand new day for Jean Butler, the former lead dancer of 'Riverdance' who has reinvented herself in her new solo performance -- which is choreographed by trailblazing New York choreographer Tere O'Connor.
In this radical and intense 40-minute choreography, coproduced by the Peacock Theatre, the former cailin deas violently shakes out any remnant of those dreamy, graceful slip-jigs that emblazoned her into our psyche as an icon of the Celtic Tiger.
'Day' opens with Butler struggling in a demented crumpled heap on the floor before emerging into a new terrain. Like Baryshnikov with ballet, it’s exciting to see a riveting performance artist jettisoning their virtuosic past.
Confounding expectations, Butler twitches convulsively to James Baker’s fractured, atonal score.
Far from the melodies of Bill Whelan, Baker's dissonance belongs to the random world of John Cage.
In a lovely well-tailored blue dress, the red-haired dancer eventually finds her feet in this uncertain new world, which is simply draped in theatrical curtains. In a series of mercurial moments, she skips around the stage like a thoroughbred horse on its morning canter. Balancing on one leg, in a sort of arabesque, she takes a rare glance into the audience, falls to the floor, then gawkily struggles up again. Stretching out her arms like airplane wings, inspecting her hands, rubbing her chest, her thighs, Butler twitches on -- with staggering commitment and inner focus.
Deconstructing "beauty", Butler pulls unattractive grimaces, puffs out her cheeks like a blowfish, sucks them back in -- tracing out a jagged, often exquisite landscape that refuses to serve up a story, or recognizable reference points.
In this abstract exploration of consciousness, she mercilessly propels herself out of her comfort zone into lighting designer Michael O'Connor's cold light of 'Day'.
Butler's risky plan to rip it up and start again with Tere O'Connor, who is all about "the now", was an ingenious move indeed.
This astonishing, finely wrought show may not be easy viewing but then again, as many have discovered since the demise of the Celtic Tiger, what in real life is easy?