AN INSPIRING video essay has been released by a Doolin dancer, urging people to use creativity and the natural world to support them in these challenging times.
In the piece, filmed by Clem McInerney, Tess McGovern, an Irish dancer and teacher, relates how her world came to a stop last March and how she found solace in her native Doolin. The script, which Tess spent several months perfecting, describes the onset of the pandemic and how “waves of worry rose and the darkness set in, like a wild Atlantic storm the challenges grew, under siege by the westerly winds”.
“Last March, I was working with the Milwaukee Irish Dance Company who, like all Irish dancers in America would be really busy around St Patrick’s Day,” Tess told The Champion. “It’s a time I would normally be teaching, gigging and lecturing. Then stuff started getting cancelled. The States were slower to go into lockdown but I got back on March 19 as things were starting to spiral.”
For Tess, whose day job involved running a school of Irish dance in Limerick, the pandemic brought an immediate end to her work and cut her off from the normally vibrant scene of traditional music, dance and song. “I did the BA in Irish Music and Dance at the University of Limerick (UL) and made great friendships with people I would keep in contact with through the likes of the Doolin Folk Festival or the Willie Clancy Summer School,” she outlined. “Everything stopped, but I suppose a lot of us felt that it would all be over by the May Bank Holiday. Of course, that didn’t happen and there was a degree of annoyance that things like GAA came back, but there was no word of activities like dance. That did start to eat away at me.”
Tess acknowledged that many creative people turned to performing online from their living rooms, but said that that environment was not for her. “To be honest, I don’t like dancing at home,” she said. “My creative process tends to happen when I’m outside, going for walks and listening to music. I suppose I just found myself inspired to dance while I was out walking alone. Someone saw me on the pier and told me later. I had no idea there was anyone else there, but I suppose I’m known locally as a dancer and a free spirit, so it didn’t bother me too much!”
Capturing Tess’s creativity in nature was a long process, but ultimately worthwhile. “It does take time to make good work,” she said, “and Clem and I were willing to give it time. We wanted to make the process fun too. In the end, it was all shot in a day last August, after we figured out how we’d do it. The area along the rocks in Doolin is one where I spend hours on end listening to podcasts and it’s really tranquil, so I wanted to bring that location into it.”
Scenes of Tess swimming in the sea – another source of huge inspiration for her – were captured by Clem using equipment normally reserved for his work with pro surfers. “Clem was in the sea with me in his wet suit using his water gear,” she said. “There’s a shot of me lying back in the water and, to be honest, I was actually starting to panic breathe by the time that was filmed. It looks like I’m really tranquil and Clem was delighted, saying it was a dreamy shot and it does look very artistic. We spent a lot of time on the editing and I was probably writing the script up to New Year’s Eve.”
The response to the film, entitled ‘Immersed in Blue’ and available on Vimeo.com, is something that Tess is still getting to grips with. “It’s been amazing because people have really taken comfort from the fact I’ve talked about what the pandemic has put me through,” she said. “Lots of people have reached out to tell me their own stories and people have shared their memories of Doolin, especially those who’ve moved away over the years.”
As a creative artist, Tess has advice for anyone looking to tap into their own creativity during lockdown. “I think people sometimes get the wrong impression when they look at Instagram,” she said. “There are lots of images of people working from home and being creative at home and I just didn’t feel creative in that space. You have to find what’s right for you. I’m very inspired by where I’m from, so I would say just let your inspiration come naturally.”