Colin Dunne in his Concert. Photo by Maurice Gunning, Courtesy Dunne

Colin Dunne Is in an "Intense Relationship with Dance"

My relationship with dance has been an ever-shifting thing. I grew up in Birmingham, England, to Irish parents, and dance was wrapped up in my second-generation Irish identity. In the 1980s, it was difficult to feel at ease with being both English and Irish—you felt like you had to choose which side you were on. Everything about dance was my channel for proclaiming my Irishness.


But those nationalistic agendas fell away around 20 years ago when I moved to Ireland after performing in Riverdance. That was probably the ultimate statement of Irish identity, and as a result, I was oversaturated with it and pulled away toward a more solo and personal practice. In 2001 I got my master's degree in contemporary dance.

Now at 51, I'm just following my impulses. I'm not trying to make Irish dance more accessible, or update it, or break boundaries. I'm not waving the flag—I'm just looking for what's of interest to me. Somehow, that always leads me back to the studio.

I'm in an intense relationship with dance. I don't mean to over-romanticize it. Sometimes the relationship is functional and sometimes it's entirely dysfunctional. Some days I go to the studio and leave completely frustrated. But I know myself through it—I feel alive and connected through it.

I often wonder how long I can sustain this. I don't really want to be dancing into my 60s, but I said that in my 40s about my 50s, and here I am. You change your expectations over time. Sometimes I feel a sense of shame or embarrassment when I run into people I haven't seen for a long time and they ask me if I'm still dancing. It makes me feel defensive, and I start to ask myself why I'm still doing it. Should I have grown out of it? I guess I continue to dance because I can. But honestly, I haven't really found any other way to live my life that nourishes me in the same way.

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In Memoriam: Joffrey Dancer Charlene Gehm MacDougal, 69

Former lead dancer with The Joffrey Ballet, Charlene Gehm MacDougal died of ovarian cancer on January 10 at her home in New York City, age 69.

Gehm illuminated the inner life of each of the varied characters in her extensive repertoire. Whether she was the gracious hostess in George Balanchine's Cotillon, the riveting Lady Capulet in John Cranko's Romeo and Juliet, or in the tumult of William Forsythe's Love Songs, she drew the viewer's eye and heart to the essence of the role.

As Forsythe puts it: "Charlene was certainly one of the most elegant dancers I have had the privilege to work with. Her striking countenance flowed into her work and, joined with her wicked sense of humor and intelligence, created thoughtful, mesmerizing and memorable art."

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February 2021