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Fireworks to shine for strength and equality this St Patrick’s

15 March 2018

This weekend prepare for an extravaganza of entertainment as Derry stages a show to remember celebrating St Patrick and the dawn of Spring – not to mention some fearless female icons.

While the festivities traditionally centre around the story of the patron saint of Ireland, this year’s Spring has Sprung theme has a strong focus on some of the remarkable women who have changed the course of history.

In ancient times people looked to the goddesses rather than the gods when it came to celebrating growth, new life and the fertility of the land. So this year amongst the 600 strong troupe taking part in the Spring Carnival parade look out for the Celtic goddess Brigit, and the Hindu goddess Bharamari (the goddess of the bees) among the colourful cast there to celebrate spring, rebirth and empowerment.

With 2018 also marking 100 years of suffrage, local groups will be taking the opportunity to pay tribute to some of the courageous female figures who dedicated their lives to securing independence and rights for their fellow women. Fireworks DDTA are among the groups who will be flying the flag for emancipation as they bring the story to life during their dance performance at the parade on Saturday.

The group is made up of dance and drama students of all ages and abilities who take part in a range of classes under the guidance of professional dancer and choreographer Nadine Hegarty. As part of their preparations for Saturday the group have been discussing issues of inclusion, ideas of identity and empowerment – with plenty of fun thrown in along the way.

Group members are adamant that an equal society is the only way forwards. "Because women are half the population - the world just wouldn't function without women, so of course they should be recognised as equal," says Treasa Sweeney.

And they have been talking about the female role models who continue to change attitudes today.

"Angelina Jolie is a good role model because she uses her celebrity status for good causes and educating people," insists Laura Glowicka. “But my ultimate role model is my mother, she's been through so much and still keeps going. She is so strong."

 "Maya Angelou is my role model because she wrote so many powerful messages in her books and poetry," says Charlotte McCorkell

 Fireworks member Stephanie Gaumond believes that women need to have more self-belief, "I think that’s so important if we are to change attitudes – I have the opportunity to change the world and I am not afraid to be myself."

Having spent years working in the dance industry, Nadine is conscious of her role in nurturing confidence and independence in her students,

“In an industry that is so appearance led, and where success is parallel to emotional and mental submission, an education practice which empowers, educates and trains dancers in equal measure is imperative,” Nadine explains. “Fireworks DDTA is a company that is based entirely around inclusion. This means understanding and accepting all people and their choices, and their right to have a choice.

“Teaching methodologies and practices have been specifically developed with inclusion as the core principle. This comes with a learner centred approach and small numbers in classes, where students are given clear boundaries and at the same time creative control. It is a new type of learning environment that challenges most commonplace practices in the world of dance schools. I developed the curriculum seven years ago, and as it continues to evolve, it continues to succeed.”

And feminism is an important ideology for all young girls – especially those with ambitions in the entertainment industry, Nadine insists.

“Feminism for me is a branch of the idea of full inclusion. Attitudes in this area are changing, slowly but surely. The Harvey Weinstein scandal has definitely created a ripple effect in the entertainment industry in general, and both women and men are beginning to recognise the reality that abuse, and moreover, the tolerance of abuse, is one of the main pillars of success within the performance world. 

“The classical dance world - archaic and cemented in an antiquated format - is beginning to recognise that it needs to change and adapt. Dance Magazine has published a few articles on this need in recent months and there has been a global recognition in the dance industry that there is a need for radical change. The sad thing for me is, that these changes in the industry will come before any changes to teaching approaches or the standardised dance studio structure. It will start from the top, and work its way down, where really it should be the other way about to prepare a new generation of performers to go into a new (or at least changing industry).

"The issue is that this would rely on empowered dance teachers and studio owners to lead a revolution of dance education in preparation for a revolutionised dance industry most of whom (in this country at least) are females. Educators need to be well enough informed and empowered to develop new practices and brave enough to abandon and challenge cultural and educational norms. In other words, we need empowered people to create empowered people.”

The group has been working on a performance piece which will capture some of their own passion, independence and power, as Nadine explains.

“The choreography has been created with the rebellious attitude of the Suffragettes embodied in 2018. The movement is incoherent to the costume, it represents the expectancy of the effeminate and diaphanous being interrupted by strength, power and solidity and self-validation.”

The Spring Carnival Parade will bring together over 600 participants from local schools, youth clubs, community groups and arts and cultural organisations with a range of pageant pieces created by the North West Carnival Initiative, Greater Shantallow Community Arts, In Your Space Circus and Bluebell Arts Project.

A whole host of events will be taking place and the highlights on St Patrick’s Day itself include the Legenderry Food Festival in Guildhall Square, and live musical performances on the Spring Stage at Guildhall Street with local musical acts, Dara, CCÉ Baile na gCailleach, Voices of the Foyle Choir and Suil. The Mayor will also host a series of events in the Craft Village throughout the day including live traditional music and dancing, kids’ activities and crafts.

The Carnival is supported by Derry City and Strabane District Council and part funded by the NI Executive office and the Department of Communities through the Greater Shantallow Community Arts ‘Communities United Civic Engagement and Enrichment Programme’, and delivered in conjunction with the North West Carnival Initiative.

For a full listing of what is happening log on to www.derrystrabane.com/springcarnival 

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