38 Women | 2016

A class and performance project for women aged 15-65+

19 September – 4 December 2016

Led by Philippa Donnellan

We live by the stories we have about our lives; they shape our lives.
(Bearing Witness;  Katherine Ley, 2010)

Your turn, your move – your word. What experiences have shaped your life? How have they changed you?

38 WOMEN was a class and performance project which started in September as part of the public engagement programme of the CoisCéim/ANU co-production THESE ROOMS (for more information about THESE ROOMS click here).  Involving over thirty women of different ages from across Dublin and beyond, the project took place at CoisCéim studio and at Collins Barracks, the National Museum of Ireland – Decorative Arts and History.  The participants took part in weekly technical Contemporary dance classes and exploratory movement sessions. Guided by the choreographer, the participants collaborated to invent new narratives and varied physical imagery in a process drawing from personal experience and utilising text, sound, and visual material.  38 WOMEN culminated in three performances by the participants on 3 and 4 December 2016 at National Museum of Ireland, Collins Barracks.


“In September we met for the first time. Thirty four women signed up to take part. Some people knew other well, a few are related – mother and daughter and sisters. It is a diverse group  – half the people are Irish whilst others are from different countries and cultures world-wide. We are aged from 20 to 70 or thereabouts and speak many languages. We are mothers, grandmothers, sisters, girlfriends, nieces, wives, and aunts. We have varied jobs and careers – and a range of skills in theatre, movement and performance.

Over the Autumn we begin to get to know each other. Together we talk, play, laugh, improvise – and dance. We recount themes we have in common and memories that are uniquely individual, and share experiences we have witnessed as women. Some of the practice sessions take place in ANU’s rehearsal space at Collins Barracks. Since 1997 the barracks have been home to collections of the National Museum of Ireland – Decorative Arts and History. With such a history of purpose and as an archive and repository of the nation’s stories, it is perhaps fitting that this is the setting for the performance of 38 WOMEN. Slowly we begin to find ways to tell our stories through movement; to embody them and give them life. New stories emerge, choreography is created, and the stories begin to take shape.” – Philippa Donnellan


38 WOMEN culminated in three performances by the participants on 3 and 4 December 2016 at National Museum of Ireland, Collins Barracks.  Many thanks to the National Museum of Ireland – Decorative Arts and History for their support and for making this project possible.




A selection of images from the workshops depicting the creative process and from the live performances. Photos by Anthony Griffin.