The Monthly interviews local ballet dancer Ruaidhrí Maguire – Part 2 – Setting up a company in Northern Ireland

Why did you set up a company in Northern Ireland?

I have spent three and half year’s dancing as a principal, and I have loved it. It is a lot of pressure, a lot of risk, but in turn, a lot of reward.

I have always wanted to be able to perform at home and this is a common theme with dancers from the north and south of Ireland. We always want to come home, we always want to dance at home. But the opportunities to dance at home are few and far between. It’s down to lack of funding and there is no real heritage of classical dance really happening here.

Why is that?

I think here we missed a very pivotal time in the British Ballet’s story. We missed out on fantastic choreographers like Frederick Ashton, Kenneth McMillan, Jiri Kylian, William Forsythe, we missed out on the huge names in the ballet world in their prime. Companies wouldn’t bring a tour to Belfast because the risk to the dancers was too great. And you can understand that, given what was happening here at the time.

I think that has left a view of ballet as simply tutus and Swan Lake or The Nutcracker Suite and that ballet is reserved for the middle and upper classes. People here haven’t seen what ballet can be beyond that. I want to give audiences the chance to see that ballet can be different from the stereotype. That we can take real stories and we can tell those stories using dance.

I had been working on White Doves, (a ballet about the Peace People in the 1970’s), for nearly two years and I wasn’t getting very far in terms of bringing it to the stage. I started to think that I always wanted to be a leader and the best way to do that, and help to build the dance scene at home, was to start a company.

Was there any resistance to your proposals?

At some point there was some money from previous funding applications which needed to be used, and there was a little bit of support and I think there was quite a bit of enthusiasm, in the sense that people were willing to give it a go. There hadn’t been a ballet which revolved around a story from Northern Ireland.

It was definitely a bit of a slog, and we had to get over considerable assumptions about what ballet is, and what ballet can be, however I think we did really well, and the work was really well received.
When people talked to me after the show, they would tell me that this was their first ballet but they would definitely go to another ballet. And that is what our mission is, to make ballet accessible to more than just your core dance audience. That was wonderful to hear.

Do you have any major influences regarding your work?

Early on it was Carlos Acosta and Mikhail Baryshnikov. They are absolute gods for male dancers, they have incredible strength, technique, charisma, the performances. There was also the artistic director for the Australian Ballet, David Hallberg, an incredible dancer. To me he is the epitome of what a principal should look like.

You can go on to the Australia Ballet’s Instagram you can see clips of rehearsals, from classes with him teaching, and watching him make corrections, and how he challenges the company with new works and new styles, I really admire that. I like a lot of what Australian Ballet does.

Choreographically, I love Kenneth McMillan. David Dawson, his work is stunning, and there is one piece by Crystal Pite called The Agreement, which is a wonderful piece of art. There isn’t any music but when you see it, it feels like the words of the script are being articulated by the dancers’ bodies in the piece.

Where to now?

At the moment, I am in Galway working on a piece called “Where Two Paths Meet” for four dancers, which is supported by Galway Dance Project.

I am in the early stages of a dance film and I am hoping to do a programme for Six Dance Collective next year which will feature a small number of professional dancers, new music and, of course, new choreography.

See more of Ruaidhri Maguire’s Work at the following link –

artist forms link
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