Oona Doherty interviewed by Indre Kirsaite

about Hope Hunt & The Ascension into Lazarus
© Graham
about Hope Hunt & The Ascension into Lazarus

A theatre courtyard, a lot of people, slight chaos. Suddenly, music blasts out of an old red car driving into the yard. A young male driver opens the hatch and a small and flexible dancer jumps out and starts dancing. Her street style and sharp motions make her appear more male than female. Her name is Oona Doherty, an internationally awarded Irish dancer, whose performance “Hope Hunt & The Ascension into Lazarus” illustrates the life of men from underprivileged areas.


Your performance relates to social problems and gender stereotypes. What do you make of today’s society, and which issues does it face?

I was looking at young men from underprivileged areas. They have a certain type of costume they wear – tracksuits. They usually live in a specific type of building, social housing buildings built in the late 60s, 70s or 80s. You get them in loads of countries. They end up living very close together and there is a high unemployment rate. Those facts sometimes lead to certain rhythms in the body. The boys drink a lot of fizzy juice, have a bad diet – and this creates a neurotic kind of movement. For example, I was looking at boys in Belfast to try to copy their physical mannerisms. But then, we started looking at those fellows in Slovenia, Russia, Germany, the UK and other places.

Why did you choose to include sacral music and the biblical motive of Lazarus? Lazarus, who after four days in his tomb was raised from the dead by Jesus.

Maybe because of the political problems we face in Ireland. I think, religion is slightly to blame for it which, I know, is a massive statement. A long time ago, religion got into bed with Ireland’s politics. We had no money but the church had it, and then it got a bit complicated with education, politics and stuff. For example, the campaign to repeal the Eighth Amendment [1] is a complicated issue in Ireland because of its connection to religion. So, that was one part of it. And I think of the images, the statues and the saints that you see in church that are glorified and untouchable – compared to those lads that you see in the street. People don’t see them as gods. I read a book by British poet Kate Tempest. She wrote the beautiful poetry book “Brand New Ancients” about the dole queue [2]. She writes about the characters in the queue, looking at them as Greek gods – so there was an inspiration in literature.

Do you seek to provoke the spectators, to provoke feelings?

When the car arrives with that type of music and the tracksuit emerges from it, this image has already succeeded in provoking the audience. Because the people that I represent are not the people in the audience, this is the point. Those people do not go to contemporary dance festivals. I don’t want to make money out of the fear of that stereotype, I try to open up the stereotype, to just show that they are people too. I have done a tour of prisons and youth detention centres in Ireland and I would like to do more, but it is quite complicated to be able to arrange such tours. I feel that energetically it would be of more service than simply presenting it to the usual art public. Not that I am complaining, I am very grateful to be able to show it, but there is something just a bit off with those two different subcultures meeting each other this way. You run the risk of having a hipster look at another hipster. For example, two years ago, something happened half a year after I had created “Hope Hunt”: Mainstream retailers like “Ellesse” and “Adidas” started to sell working class fashion that looked like from the 90s. So, immediately the content of the show shifted. I do not know if “Hope Hunt” is a bit dead now. I might just be a hipster.


This text was written in the framework of a cooperation with the Institute for Communication of the University of Vienna (Dr. Olga Kolokytha).


all articles in the TQW MAGAZIN


[1] criminalisation of abortion

[2] where you wait to get your social benefit money if you are unemployed.