Sailing to Byzantium with Liz Roche

We welcome the Liz Roche Company to An Grianán for the first time with the beautiful dance show Bastard Amber this Tuesday 29 November. Book now.

Bastard Amber is a multi-disciplinary work where live music and highly innovative design/visual art take centre stage alongside sublime choreography performed by a stellar company of Irish and international dancers.

This ground-breaking dance production draws inspiration from two of the great Irish artists of the modern age, WB Yeats and Patrick Scott. Co-commissioned by the Abbey Theatre, Dublin Dance Festival and Kilkenny Arts Festival the work’s premiere at Dublin Dance Festival in May 2015 was a historic moment for dance in Ireland, the first time ever for an Irish choreographer to be commissioned to create a full length dance work for the main stage of Ireland’s National Theatre.

[box style=”yellow” closable=”un-closable”] What’s in a name? Bastard Amber is the name of a theatrical lighting gel colour that was created by mistake and discarded until lighting designer Louis Hartmann chanced upon it by accident. He loved it so much he asked the company to create more, referring to it as that “bastard amber you had.”[/box]

Bastard Amber was a resounding success, receiving fantastic reviews, a standing ovations and was seen in the Abbey by President Higgins and his wife Sabine Higgins. The production now stands as a landmark event both for Liz Roche – who remains at the forefront of defining a new landscape for dance in Ireland – but also for Irish contemporary dance within a culture more noted internationally for words rather than movement.

Bastard Amber by the Liz Roche Company, November 2016 at An Grianan Theatre

Following on from the Abbey performances Bastard Amber has since performed at the Kilkenny Arts Festival and most recently at the prestigious Espace des Arts, Chalon- Sur-Saone, France, as part of Festival Instances 2015 supported by Culture Ireland.

Bastard Amber is filled with unforgettable imagery and stunning design, conjuring a lustrous Byzantine world of contradictory influences. It draws inspiration from the imagery of W.B Yeats’ poem Sailing to Byzantium and
 captures not only the evocative and arresting imagery of the 
poem but also gives voice to the modern vision that Yeats imagined in his own work for theatre. The work of other artists is strongly referenced in relation to this, most notably Patrick Scott’s iconic Gold meditation paintings reflected in the set and light design, contrasting the subtleties of form, space and light with the wild, stark, beautiful reality of the body.

Choreographed and conceived by Liz Roche, the work includes a cast of eight highly respected irish and international dancers performing alongside four renowned musicians from traditional, rock and classical backgrounds, an exceptional set, lighting and costume design from celebrated designers Paul Wills, Lee Curran and Catherine Fay and a specially commissioned score by composer Ray Harman.

In outlining her work process, Liz Roche writes: “ My first instincts around this new work were to explore the metaphoric power of gold – its texture, colour, permanence and its enduring symbolic importance. I was drawn to Yeats’ poem Sailing to Byzantium where the substance symbolizes a sense of magnificence, monument, endurance and his own eternal preservation. I found further inspiration in the iconic gold meditation paintings – menacing and meditative in equal measure – of visual artist Patrick Scott. I was particularily drawn to Scott’s Zen-like approach to space and light influenced by his affinity with the East – a passionate interest shared with Yeats.Perhaps because of the significance of creating a dance work for the Abbey Theatre, I researched the early manuscripts of the rarely performed dance plays of its founder WB Yeats. The cyclical and supernatural themes of The Dreaming of the Bones, opened a fascinating avenue of discovery for me. Yeats’ accompanying cryptic, modernist and intuitive stage
directions, an indication of his radical spirit, which is often under-valued, began to form an abstract framework for the new work. Taking note that these themes re- emerge throughout Yeat’s work, and returning to Sailing to Byzantium, I decided to explore the universal and cyclical existential themes of the poem, heavy with the imagery of the body’s own journey through life into the afterlife, challenging me to consider my own ideas of physical and emotional stability in an ultimately unstable existence”.


Liz Roche Company (formerly known as Rex Levitates) was established in 1999 and is one of Ireland’s leading contemporary dance companies. Growing an international reputation for its finely wrought, beautifully crafted choreographic style, the Dublin based company presents the works of choreographer Liz Roche in collaboration with artists, dancers and designers of the highest calibre. An artistically distinctive and ambitious arts organisation, the company has produced over twenty original productions, touring throughout Ireland and further afield in the UK, Germany, France, USA and China, most notably being presented at the Baryshnikov Arts Centre and Judson Memorial Church in New York, the South Bank Centre, London, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and most recently a major new work Bastard Amber for the Abbey Theatre / Dublin Dance Festival May 2015. The company are currently in the creation process of new production “Time Over Distance Over Time” set to premiere at Dublin Dance Festival 2016 and afterwards to tour to Australia as part of Culture Ireland’s international celebration I Am Ireland, Ireland 2016 Centenary Programme.

“Roche’s choreography is delicately woven but it’s threads possess an elusive tensile strength. Entrancing.” Donald Hutera, The Times

“Liz Roche is an artist with a serious track record…” Judith Mackrell, The Guardian


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