The President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins recently visited the residents of Rathfredagh Chesire Homes, Co. Limerick during the Éigse Michael Hartnett Festival, Newcastle West, Co. Limerick. Mary Hartney, Limerick County Council Dancer in Residence, introduced an exhibition of integrated dance for the President performed by some of the Rathfredagh residents and transition-year students of Copsewood College and Pallaskenry. Also performing were Lisa Cahill and Sultan Kakar of Spoken Dance, Limerick’s first professional integrated Dance Company in collaboration with singer Colum Sands.
Limerick County Council Arts Office has been running an innovative and successful integrated dance programme at Rathfredagh Cheshire Home since 2006, facilitated by Mary Hartney. The programme involves transition-year students from schools around the county creating and performing dance with the residents of Rathfredagh who all have varying levels of physical disability. In the current year, five post-primary schools are participating, involving over 150 transition-year students.
‘The development of this programme has been a long-term ambition of mine and County Arts Officer Joan Mac Kernan. We are delighted to see the flourishing of the programme and how freely the young people and the residents interact and how the dance programme has helped to break down fears and inhibition around the area of disability.’ Mary Hartney, Limerick Co Council Dancer in Residence
Joan Scannell, Rathfredagh resident, and dancer, ‘this dance experience has led to me moving and dancing in ways that I never thought possible. The residents and transition year students have a really great fun time together’.
Also performed at the Éigse Festival was Hearts Wheels and Horses – choreographed by Dancer in Residence Mary Hartney, dance as never seen before! The moving chair, the human heart and the power of the equine spirit conspire to create in this showcase of dance, a celebration of co-operation, friendship and imagination. Participants include the service users of Enable Ireland and Shanagolden Youthreach students whose dance is inspired by their weekly visits together to Clonshire Equestrian Centre and the relationship of ease and trust that was forged with each other and the horses. This same spirit laced with excitement and fun permeates the dance performances with the residents of Rathfredagh Cheshire Home, the service users of the Brothers of Charity and the transition year students of Scoil Mhuire agus Íde, Desmond College and Copsewood College Pallaskenry. Joining the dance fun and exploration on the day was Spoken Dance. Featuring music and song from the witty and astutely-observant repertoire of Colum Sands.