RUFF CELTS: By Marguerite Donlon

Visceral Dance Chicago. 2016

Chicago Sun Times. Hedy Weiss
12. April. 2016

Marguerite Donlon (who has worked with major dance, theater and opera companies throughout Europe and beyond, as well as with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago), has given Visceral a tremendous gift with “Ruff Celts,” a work that should entice some savvy Broadway producer to snap her up to work on a big musical. She is a wizard with a fierce sense of humor and invention.

Set to an exuberantly rhythmic mix of Irish folk music, Gaelic speech and the contemporary electronica sounds of others (including her late husband, Claas Willeke) – with some spectacular silhouetted lighting by Nathan Tomlinson, and costumes by Donlon – the full-company work might best be described as “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” meets a latter-day “Brigadoon.” Puffs of smoke erupt like magic dusk as alternately strange and playful rituals are observed, and athletic men (in black kilts) compete and cavort with their equally feisty women. A bit of primal break-dance and a moonwalking riff blend easily with Celtic step-dancing, jigs and a line dance full of exotic head and arm isolations. James Barrett was the standout comic force here, with the always exquisite Caitlin Cucchiara and Adam McGaw in a notable pairing backed by the full company (including Brandon Coleman, Paige Fraser, Marissa Horton, Noelle Kayser, Kelsey Middleton, Owen Scarlett and Karl Watson).

The multi-talented Donlon also created an installation for Pupillo’s “Vital” in the form of a giant silvery tree composed of interlocking metal hangers. It served as a luminous visual counterpoint to the score by David Lang and the ingenious percussionist Peter Ferry (the latter in a bristling onstage performance that was a dance all its own).


Dance Review by Rebecca Curl,

Adding to my awe at Visceral Dance’s Chicago’s exemplary work was the world premiere piece, Ruff Celts.  Devised, choreographed, and costumed by Marguerite Donlon, Ruff Celts brought to the stage a unique boldness that is often lacking from more traditional pieces.  Inspired by the personalities of the dancers themselves, Ruff Celts fuses the music of contemporary Irish and German composers to create a vivacious, multi-dimensional piece featuring both “composed sections and improvisational forms” to explore a range of artistic elements.  The energy pulsed from the stage through the audience as the artists explored what makes them tick and their effects on the world around them.  Donlon’s quirky costume design featured modernized kilts for the men and traditional neck ruffs for all of the artists.  White chalk dust was also thrown by the artists throughout the performance, adding both intensity at pivotal moments and visual interest to the piece as a whole.  Ruff Celts is sure to be amongst the knockout pieces in Visceral Dance’s growing repertoire.




Visceral Dance Chicago Finds Footing, Then Flies

Irish choreographer Marguerite Donlon’s Ruff Celts premiered mid-way through the evening, and the full company piece is about as good as it gets. The men don kilts, with the women in black boy-cut leos; all are adorned with white Elizabethan ruffs and periodically throw puffs of white powder in the air. With its black socks, quirky gestures, and stark European aesthetic, Ruff Celts could be mistaken for a seventh Kylián Black and White Ballet if not for its Irish-themed shenanigans. What I can’t know or understand about the piece (aside from what goes on in Donlon’s brilliant mind), is whether the sarcastic nod to old English elite is an intentionally Irish jab, or just for plain fun. I have to assume the former.