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Building birds: A deep dive into the research and development of new ballet White Doves

Updated: May 6

The choreographic journey for White Doves began with a research and development phase in Spring 2021. As his starting point for the two act work, choreographer Ruaidhrí Maguire worked with classical dancers Danila Marzilla and Daniel Morrison to create the movement language for the work's title Doves.

Dancers Danila Marzilli and Daniel Morrison rehearsing as 'Doves' in April 2021 research and development.

Starting points

Ruaidhrí says, “It's always interesting when you start research for a new piece where the journey takes you.”

“I tend to start creating the central pas de deux or the main duet for most of my pieces. It gives me a chance to see how I can best translate my ideas into movement.”

White Doves uses both narrative and abstract methods to retell the events which led to the formation of the Peace People and to the first March for Peace in 1976.

"When we first began thinking about creating a work based on home, it was clear that we would make something that goes beyond the narrative. Dance gives so many opportunities beyond naturalism."

Choosing Doves: Art in motion

“I think most people are familiar with the dove of peace image from Picasso. As we considered peace and identity as our central themes, it felt only right that doves should represent our journey towards peace."

Dove of Peace (1949) by Pablo Picasso. Image credit:

Many choreographers, composers and theatre artists have pulled their inspiration from visual art. Examples in music include Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition piano suite, based on paintings and drawings by Viktor Hartmann and Errollyn Wallen's work for orchestra and soprano, This Frame is Part of the Painting, a homage to artist Howard Hodgkin. In musical theatre, the Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's Sunday in the Park with George, was inspired by Georges Seurat's painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. More recently in dance, choreographer Christopher Wheeldon's and composer Mark Mark-Anthony Turnage's 2016 ballet Strapless was an interpretation of painter John Singer Sargent’s Madame X portrait.

Ruaidhrí also took inspiration from the birds themselves. "As well as Picasso, there are so many examples within the avian world of dance as a key part of their social structure so there were plenty of examples in nature to draw inspiration from.”

Ruaidhrí working with Daniel Morrison and Danila Marzilli.


“The challenge with developing movement language for birds within an otherwise narrative has been finding a way to make it accessible for audiences to read."

"We wanted to show a broken community taking steps to come together. I've been developing the material so that our Doves should begin by dancing apart, using the same movements but starting at different points or reversing the choreography. When they finally come together, there is a sense of harmony.”

We hope that having the music and choreography so intrinsically linked will help audiences understand the message of the ballet on a much deeper level."

Daniel and Danila rehearsing the Doves pas de deux.

Working with new music

The music for the work is a new score by County Down composer Amelia Clarkson. Ruaidhrí has been working with the composer since 2018, most notably on 2019 ballet Dear Frances.

Ruaidhrí explains, "Having music specifically composed for White Doves is such a joy. Today's choreographers are spoilt for choice with music streaming making so many different artists available. It is such a privilege to have a score specifically created for the ballet."

"Collaborating with composer Amelia Clarkson allows us to collaborate on what mood we want the music to reflect, how we want the audience to feel. We hope that having the music and choreography so intrinsically linked will help audiences understand the message of the ballet on a much deeper level."

Tickets for White Doves at the MAC Belfast from 3 - 5 August 2023 go on sale soon. Subscribe to receive updates from Six Dance Collective here.

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