Five Questions for John Scott

John Scott, aloft

John Scott, aloft

Name: John Scott

Title/Occupation:Choreographer, artistic Director

Organization/Company: Irish Modern Dance Theatre


1. Where did you grow up and how did you end up where you are now?

I grew up in Dublin, Ireland. My father, leslie, was chief Lighting Designer at the Abbey Theatre and also lit from Irish Nation Ballet. My brother Michael (now a theatre director) and I saw everything and soaked up everything. It was kind of inevitable that we would end up in the ‘business’. I saw the Living Theater when I was very young – with Julian Beck and Judith Malina and they influenced me. I had grown up with narrative text based drama and had enough. The Living Theater lit a lightbulb for me. Then dance and I was apprenticed to Dublin City Ballet, working with Anna Sokolow and some other legends. Eventually started mey own stuff. Also sing and and work as a singer. Adore Meredith Monk and have stdied with her and Pablo Vela. They opened so much for me. Wanted to make my own work and started my own company. The beginning of a long crazy journey. I still live in Dublin – though part of my heart and soul resides in New York – where I am compelled to visit when cheap flights allow to my dear friends Micki Wesson, Pablo Vela and Nicky Paraiso.

2. Which performance, song, play, movie, painting or other work of art had the biggest influence on you and why?

When I was 10 I saw an incredible Irish Abbey actress Maire Ni Dhomaill in O’Casey’s ‘Plough and the Stars’ – she terrified me – also blown away by Judith Malina playing Antigone – she was Antigone and herself at the same time – in Thebes and in the actual theater – it took away the pretend of theater but kept all the magic. That production of Antigone – with its audience relationship (they were the enemy who got attached) and the Brechtian politics and bareness – no set, dark everyday costumes, no lighting except worklights and no unjustified entrances or exits – the cast being set and props too – and the metaphysical aesthetic dimension and the love story – has sort of been a template in my own work since. My current work with Survivors of Torture and refugees and the conflicts I have had with the Irish Government – seem somehow inspired by the radical spirit I first witnessed in Julian and Judith.

3. What skill, talent or attribute do you most wish you had and why?

Well this may sound weird but I am a terrible dancer – I wish I could dance better – It’s a shocking confession for a choreographer but maybe it makes my work the sort of work it is because of this rather than in spite of this. I would like too be able to drive. It is so inconvenient for much of my touring that I can’t drive.

4. What do you do to make a living? Describe a normal day.

My proper day job is as Artistic Director of Irish Modern Dance Theatre. Right now we’re rehearsing for FALL AND RECOVER at DUBLIN DANCE FESTIVAL. Before rehearsals, I do my voice warm up. If theres a great teacher in town like Janet Panetta or Jodi Melnick or Elisabeth Corbett – I take their class. I go to the office and work with my patient Executive Producer Leo Mc Kenna trying to make the next big thing happen, chase and torment wonderful inspiring people like Charlie Atlas and Sara Rudner to come to Ireland and work with me and try to keep positive dialogue with our main funders – The Arts Council of Ireland, Dublin City Council and Culture Ireland. I’m on the board of Dubin Dance Festival and also have some contact with Laurie Uprichard about various issues. I travel to London to my singing teacher twice monthly – just for the day – usually a cruel 6am flight because they’re cheaper. I also sing classically in concerts – some of these are inspiring and some are dull and functional but enable me to keep doing what I love. I’m lucky to have a full time modest salary for my dance company. I also give a workshop one morning a week for the CENTRE FOR CARE FOR SURVIVORS OF TORTURE, Dubin. It sounds challenging but is a gift to work with extraordinary people who have suffered physically and mentally – almost being wiped out – and to have some small part in their rehabilitation and integration.

5. Have you ever had to make a choice between work and art? What did you choose, why, and what was the outcome?

When I was an apprentice with Dublin City Ballet, I survived by putting posters for performances in bars, cafes and stores around Dubin. It was a ‘cultural job’ but was really about delivering posters and flyers around wet Dublin streets. I got to know every bar and café in Dublin and had contact with most presenters but not for my art – just for my poster delivery skills – at times soul destroying but I persisted and it probably toughened me up for running a company. I am lucky to have funding (while the Irish economy still holds out) to make my work. Its never enough and there are always fights. For creating dance, Ireland is a hostile environment thought Dance Ireland and the Dance Festival are helping to make the conditions better.



JOHN SCOTT’s next big thing is a production for DUBLIN DANCE FESTIVAL (Hi, Laurie!!!) – Fall and Recover – Project Theatre, Dublin 14/15/16 May. Don’t Miss it!!!!

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