(Photography Credit: Michael McEvoy)
Whelan is a dance artist born in Carlow. Recent choreographic work includes, In
The End, We Begin (Film) commissioned by Dancer From the Dance Festival of
Irish Choreographer / John Scott. Róisín is currently leading a large-scale
community development project with VISUAL Carlow, bringing creative movement
sessions to the homes of people aged sixty-five and over, to combat the effects
of isolation. Róisín is the recipient of the inaugural Propel Award, a three year-long
artist development and mentorship programme funded by the Strollers Network,
Ireland’s largest consortium of Arts Centres and she is also a member of the
Northern Ireland Opera Open Studio as an Emerging Choreographer for the 21/22 season.
She was the first artist to be awarded an LD Dance Performance Residency in 2021.
Other awards and residencies include Backstage Theatre Activate Residency 2020 &
2021, Dance Ireland Regional Residency Award 2020 & 2021, Ballet Ireland
Emerging Choreographer Award, an Arts Council Dance Bursary Award 2020 & 2021,
and Tipperary Dance Fellowship Award 2020. Róisín holds a Bachelor of
Performing Arts and Master of Performance (Distinction) from the Northern
School of Contemporary Dance. She has performed extensively with Black Box
Dance Company (Denmark) and Matthew Bourne’s award-winning New Adventures (UK).
Róisín continues to perform in Ireland and the UK as a dancer on stage and
onscreen and teaches professionally for several dance companies.
Whelan Dance creates highly physical and technically demanding work with strong
narratives that is accessible to all regardless of their age, gender, or
socio-economic background. Recent choreographic works include Man Down
World Premiere at VISUAL Carlow and Backstage Theatre Longford funded through a
Project Award from Arts Council Ireland. Man Down (Film) 2021, funded by
LD Dance Performance Residency, Bank of Ireland Begin Together Award, in
association with Business to Arts. Later this year R.W.D. will create a new
show for young audiences commissioned by Tipperary Dance and a Production
Commission from Dublin City Council Creative Hubs.
What did you do with your Arts Council
received multiple awards I have been delighted to work across research and
develop phases of my work. I received a Project Award (2022), that enabled me
to premiere my first full length work Man Down at VISUAL Carlow and
Backstage Theatre Longford.
Dance Bursary Awards (2021, 2020) I worked on two projects
Galaxy Of Occupations (2020)
- developing methods of creating new work for young audiences through the
mentorship of Jon Beney (UK Mentor). Through Jon’s mentorship I got to jump
into the mind of a child and explore ways of creating work that is exciting and
suitable for young audiences between 7 and 11. It led me to receiving a
production commission from Dublin City Council and a commission from Tipperary
Dance to further develop the show and perform it in libraries, schools and
Figures (2021) – I was intrigued to research how to work with film as a medium
in live performance. I wanted to explore the hidden strength of women by
working with four incredible female performers and a film maker to see how we
can meld live dance performance and film seamlessly on stage. We played around
with ideas, it was a real mixed bag and trial and error and gave me a chance to
develop new skills in other areas.
What has receiving support from the Arts
Council meant to you as an artist/for your career?
has given me the opportunity to propel my career and take the necessary leaps
to getting work shown as a choreographer.
the beginning of my choreographic career what I needed more than anything was
time. I needed to explore my choreographic vocabulary and find my own voice as
a maker. Through bursary awards and professional development awards the Arts
Council support allowed me to do this and challenge myself to work with other
artists and mentors, all of which wouldn’t have been possible without the
moving onto production awards, I have had an incredible opportunity to work
with a large creative team; composer, set designer, costume designer, lighting
designer, producer, just to name a few. Moving up through the Arts Council
awards as a stepping stone or a ladder has meant I have been supported every
step of the way and have moved through the phases of creating new work
How would you describe your creative
would have to say it is very varied, but I mainly work through collaboration.
With my creative team of composers, lighting and set designers we work together
to find the perfect connection of the movement with each artform, one informs
the other and allows for the other to thrive. I very much value the input and
expertise of my creative team and feel by valuing that, the art is richer and
the studio with my dancers, it is a whirlwind. We jump from choreographic
tasks, to learning movement I have created, to using poetry, language, text and
a lot of count work to make the movement more interesting and complex. The
dancers are the life and soul of my work and so it is really important that the
space is fun, open and welcoming. We strive to create a family environment and
so when we create everyone feels comfortable to share and grow.
love to challenge myself in the creative process with themes and creative ideas
that start off as one simple thought and can then expand as the process continues.
What would you say is your biggest
challenge as an artist?
would have to say getting dance seen and understood by audiences is my biggest
task. As an artist I am of course always expanding my own practice, but what is
really important to me is that what I make is enjoyed and accessible to all
audiences. That everyone can relate to something in the work, and it can be
a world where we rely so much on various art forms to take us out of work and
into our imagination my aim is for dance to become a form of escapism for
people, just like film, tv and literature are. I want to push the boundaries of
movement as an artform and create work for audiences to enjoy and relate to.
are also very specific difficulties when creating narrative work which is the
genre I work in. It’s very important for me to have the audience understand the
story and the narrative of what’s happening on stage and for me as a
choreographer this is an enormous challenge because every choreographic
decision is heavily weighted in making sure the outcome adds to the red thread
of the story and directs the audience in the right way.
What is the best piece of advice you
received as an emerging artist?
be afraid to ask.
realised when starting to create my work that I knew what I wanted but wasn’t
sure how to get there. I was afraid to ask for fear of looking like I didn’t
know what I was doing or if it wasn’t the right person to ask. The best piece
of advice someone gave me was to surround yourself with people you trust and
whose opinion you value. Once you’ve done this then get asking them questions,
ask them whatever comes to mind, however big and small. People love to help
people and will be more than delighted to answer any questions they can.
What or who has influenced your practice
worked with Matthew Bourne, I would say himself and his work are my biggest
influences right now. Working with Matthew I realised the value in narrative
work and the connection audiences find in it. The company have a strong
engagement strand which I am really focused on creating alongside my own work.
I loved the theatricality, musicality and scale of the work he creates, and it
has been a real source of inspiration for me in finding where I want to go as a
What are you doing next?
am delighted to be making a new work for young audiences next called ‘The
Galaxy of Occupations’ as a part of a production commission from Dublin
City Council and Tipperary Dance. I will continue to work with Ballet Ireland
as their emerging choreographer and I will take up residence at Shawbrook this
year to work on An Fear Bréige, a new work for family audiences. I will
be apply for funding to tour for my full length work Man Down and
facilitate a large-scale dance project titles Doorstep Dances with
Dance social media