In the first collaboration of its kind, CoisCéim Dance Theatre and RHA Gallery presented a multimedia exploration of body language in a durational project that evolved over 3 exciting weeks last autumn. Each day brought a unique, immersive experience, as a new art work was created from live interviews, choreography, video projection, photography, music and dance.

This open, durational performance at the RHA Gallery was the culmination of 4 years of creative development. In parallel with BODY LANGUAGE, BROADREACH conducted ARMOUR, a participation performance project led by Philippa Donnellan.



COMPOSER Michael Fleming
DANCE ARTISTS Justine Cooper, Ivonne Kalter, Jonathan Mitchell, Emma O’Kane and Jack Webb.
GUEST ARTISTS Deirdre O’Leary (Clarinet) and the La La La Choir led by Sam Kavanagh


Is it possible to choreograph a work based entirely on body language, being true to the spontaneous nature of our physical behaviour? For Body Language, CoisCéim Dance Theatre’s Artistic Director, David Bolger set himself a task with this question.

“It is said that over 65% of all our communication is non-verbal, made up of our gestures, posture, how we sound, how we look. As a choreographer I am naturally inquisitive about body language. The tells and clues that are sent out from our limbic system (the emotional brain) are unplanned, natural, honest. They make up our everyday kinetic conversations, which are naturally organised but not pre-planned. Choreography is dance-writing. A choreographer is someone who organises and designs sequences of movement patterns and creates choreography by writing with the body. Dancing is body language and body language is dancing.” -David Bolger



“… I saw the piece four times. It shifts in the mind: A strange gameshow with social media stars; a high-tech new media gym; a 24 hour news channel broadcast with the sound turned down; a dream where all the characters are you, the interviewee; Strictly meets poststructuralist linguistics…” – CIRCA Art Magazine | Susan Thomson

     “Blurring the lines between dancing and body language, it created both a fascinating exhibition and memorable performances.” –Irish Times | Michael Seaver
Click here to see more reviews from critics and audiences

 At the RHA | 2017

The Body Language project was an exploration and interrogation of non-verbal communication in the digital, aural and physical realms. It was a process. With choreography, video/photography by artist Christopher Ash, music by Composer Michael Fleming, and dance artists Justine Cooper, Jonathan Mitchell, Ivonne Kalter, Emma O’Kane and Jack Webb, it was a process of detection and consisted of three unique cycles made up of DAILY, WEEKLY, and RESIDUAL:

  • The genesis of the DAILY CYCLE was an interview with a member of the public. The subject’s body language was captured on film and became a physical score made up of still images.  This was followed by live composition in real time with artists in the process of CREATION as they extracted meaning and responded to the physical score. The cycle ended with a PERFORMANCE of the new choreography, film, photography and music. 
  • The WEEKLY CYCLE culminated each Sunday in the gallery with a look back at the interviews from the past week followed by a new CREATION and PERFORMANCE. Each week saw new developments as the work diversified and grew. On Sunday 3 December a final presentation took place. 
  • The RESIDUAL CYCLE, from 4 December to 10 December, was an installation reflecting the lifecycle of the work.


Each day brought more interviews, choreography and other artists, and was an opportunity for you to see something new.  Follow the BODY LANGUAGE journey on Instagram through the eyes of Christopher Ash | #bodylanguageRHA
(PLEASE NOTE | Times are approximate. Cameras were live in the gallery and images may be used as part of the project.):

17 November – 3 December

  • Mondays
    11am-5pm:  PREMIERE SCREENING OF LATEST WORK – Video and sound installation of yesterday’s filmed choreographic response.
  • Tuesdays/Thursdays/Fridays/Saturdays
    From 1:30pm | CREATION & PERFORMANCE – Live composition in real time.
  • NEW | Wednesdays | Gallery Open Late
    From 6:00pm | CREATION & PERFORMANCE – Live composition in real time.
  • Sundays
    From 3:00pm | CULMINATION OF WEEKLY CYCLE | CREATION & PERFORMANCE with guest artists.

4 – 10 December, 11am-5pm (Sundays 12pm opening)

  • Daily
    SCREENING OF THE RESIDUAL CONTENT – Explore the video and sound installation of interviews and filmed choreographic responses.

Dublin Gallery Weekend Events

In conversation: David Bolger and Christopher Ash with Amanda Coogan and Fiona Newell
24 November 2017 | 4.00-5.00pm | Admission Free | RHA Gallery I

This exciting interdisciplinary event brought together a number of voices to talk about dance, visual art, performance and the psychology of sensory perception. We were delighted to welcome performance artist Amanda Coogan and Professor Fiona Newell, Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience, to engage in a conversation with choreographer David Bolger and designer/media artist Christopher Ash about Body Language

RHA Learning Event | Creating Body Language
25 November 2017 | 3.30 – 4.30pm | Admission Free, SOLD OUT | RHA Gallery I

David Bolger invited children to join him and the cast of professional dancers to explore body language and ways of communicating through dance. Using specially designed ACTIVITY SHEETS participants were guided through a range of fun movement-based tasks and a relay process with others in the group. Together, participants created moves and short sequences and discovered more about how you use your body to express yourself!

Open to all children aged 6 – 10, no dance experience necessary.

Christopher Ash is an international designer and photographer working primarily in the theatre for nearly two decades. A Philadelphia resident, he was born in New Haven, and raised in Buffalo. He cut his teeth as a designer in Chicago and Los Angeles and then returned to New Haven to complete his master’s degree in scenic design from the Yale School of Drama. His scenic; lighting; and projection design work in opera; theatre; and dance have been presented in a dozen countries in a variety of venues ranging from Broadway to five thousand seat arenas to store fronts. His designs have received several awards and nominations. David Bolger and Christopher met while working on A MIDSUMMER NIGHTS DREAM (Guthrie Theatre) where David was the co-director and choreographer; and Christopher was projection designer. Following MIDSUMMER, David invited Christopher to team up with him to develop BODY LANGUAGE. For the past two years, they have been workshopping and developing this unique installation.


Michael Fleming composes for film, TV, digital-media and dance. His TV and film work has been showcased both nationally and internationally and includes numerous acclaimed projects such as THE QUEEN OF IRELAND; MATTRESS MEN; JAHA’S JOURNEY; SOULSMITH; and the BAFTA-nominated animation film, HERE TO FALL.  Notable dance collaborations include WOMAN STOOD REGARDLESS and ULTIMA THULE by choreographer, Catherine Young; TOUCHING DISTANCE (Legitimate Bodies Dance Theatre); and two dance-films entitled DEEP END DANCE (‘RTÉ Dance on the Box’ series) with choreographer, David Bolger and director, Conor Horgan; and MONITOR with director, Luke McManus.
Justine Cooper Head Shot

Originally from New Zealand, based in Ireland since 2008.  Justine has had the pleasure of working with Meryl Tankard Australian Dance Theatre, United Fall (Girl Song, DTF 2017, Tundra, Dogs, Listowel Syndrome), Maria Nilsson Waller (Merry.Go.Round, DDF 2016), ANU / CoisCeim Dance Theatre (THESE ROOMS,DTF 2016), CoisCeim Dance Theatre (Body Language 101, Agnes, Dance Talking),  Liz Roche Company (Wrongheaded, Bastard Amber, Body and Forgetting, Fast Portraits, Secondary Sources) Junk Ensemble (Dusk Ahead, Bird with Boy, Sometimes We Break), Louise White (Way Back Home) Liv O’Donoghue (Prompted Breathless, The Way We Met).  Justine’s own work ‘Folds of the Crane’ was part of Tiger Dublin Fringe Festival 2015 and Dublin Dance Festival 2016.


Ivonne is originally from Germany, where she studied at Heinz Bosl Stiftung Ballet Academy and later on at the Iwanson School of Contemporary Dance. With her unique style and movement, as well as elaborate collaboration with choreographers during the development of each piece, she has carved a niche for herself and received international acclaim, including the Isadora Award in 2010 for the most promising young dancer. Ivonne made her professional debut with TIK Theatre in Kempten, where she displayed her creativity and innovation in choreographer Jochen Heckmann’s work. Although currently based in London, she travels extensively both with shows and to draw inspiration for her work. Recent Credits: INVITATION TO A JOURNEY (CoisCéim Dance Theatre); and THE WOLF AND PETER (Sydney Opera House) by David Bolger.

Jonathan was born in England and moved to Dublin in 1999.  He trained at the Rambert School, London, graduating in 1992.  Work with CoisCéim includes AGNES; PAGEANT; MERMAIDS; THE RITE OF SPRING; and WHEN ONCE IS NEVER ENOUGH.  He has worked with leading companies in the UK including: Adventures in Motion Pictures; Mathew Hawkins; Imlata and Dundee Rep Dance Company; and Irish companies IMDT and Liz Roche Company.  In December 2012, Jonathan made his debut on the Abbey Stage in Frank McGuinness’ adaptation of James Joyce’s THE DEAD.  Since 2008 Jonathan has also been a dance photographer, with a particular focus on location photography, and has photographed some of the most premier dance artists in the country including IMDT; Liz Roche Company; Fearghus Ó Conchuir; and Emma Martin.  In 2009 he was commissioned by Dance Ireland to create a photographic Exhibition, STILL, LIFE, which now forms part of the permanent collection.  In 2012, Jonathan received an Arts Council Dance Bursary Award to explore the integration of still images into the choreographic process.


Emma O’Kane is a freelance dancer and choreographer. She trained at the Perm State Choreographic Academy, Russia. Emma has been a member of CoisCéim Dance Theatre since 2001 and recently toured Australia with THE WOLF AND PETER. Dance Europe voted Emma Outstanding Dancer Of The Year for her performance in CoisCéim’s production of FAUN. Recent credits include THE SIN EATERS (Anu Productions) at Dublin Theatre Festival. Other performance credits include THESE ROOMS & FALLING OUT OF STANDING (Anu/CoisCéim); CENTENARY (RTÉ); and THE DEAD (Abbey Theatre). Her solo, 160 VOICES, was commissioned by the GPO Public Art Commission as part of EMBODIED (Dublin Dance Festival). She choreographed SILENT MOVES, a film by Aideen Barry; IGNITE! MAYO, which won Modern Ireland in 100 Artworks 2015. Other choreographic credits: UNDERNEATH (Fishamble); JOCKEY; BEES!; FARM; and CARE (Willfredd Theatre); THE CHILEAN TRILOGY (Prime Cut Productions); ANGEL MEADOW; LAUNDRY; BASIN (Anu Productions); and THE BALLET RUSE (co-created with Muirne Bloomer). She has worked with director Oonagh Kearney on two award-winning dance films: HER MOTHER’S DAUGHTERS, a dance short part of RTE’s DANCE ON THE BOX; and THE WAKE, recently aired on RTE 2 Shortscreen. She is a member of Project Arts Centre and has an MA in Dance from the University of Limerick.

Jack is an award-winning dancer and choreographer who, for over a decade, has worked and performed as a dancer and performer internationally with numerous companies and choreographers.  Recent Credits: LADY MACBETH:UNSEX ME HERE (Kally Lloyd Jones/Company Chordelia); GRAVITY FATIGUE (Sadler’s Wells, London) by world renowned fashion designer Hussein Chalayan and choreographer Damien Jalet; and appearance in the centenary edition of British Vogue for Hussein Chalayan, photographed by Tim Walker.  Other companies include Croiglan Integrated Dance (David Bolger and Adam Benjamin); David Hughes Dance Scotland (Kylie Walters); the Curve Foundation Dance Company (Hofesh Schecter, Jonathan Watkins, Henri Oguike and Morgan Temple); Alan Greig Dance Theatre; Jose Vidal Company; Dance Theatre Luxembourg; Company Chordelia Dance Theatre; Lucy Suggate; Arthur Pita; Charles Linehan; Ben Wright; Simon Vincenzi; and Matthew Hawkins, amongst others. TV and film appearances: CENTENARY (RTE) with choreography David Bolger; and SUNSHINE ON LEITH with choreography by Arthur Pita.  Jack is one of Scotland’s leading choreographers and his work has toured extensively and internationally to critical and audience acclaim. Recent projects: commissions for Scottish Ballet; BBC Scotland and co-productions with Tramway; Glasgow and BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art; Gateshead. From 2016-17 Jack was an associate-artist at Tramway, Glasgow.  In 2016 won the ‘One to Watch’ award from the Sunday Herald Scottish Culture Awards and was nominated for ‘Best Dance Performer’.


2016 Development Notes 

David Bolger and Christopher Ash came back together in the CoisCéim studio for a week in November 2016, this time working with dancer Ryan O’Neill and non dancers.  These sessions concentrated on stripping back the conundrum of choreography (planned movement) and body language (unplanned movement) to consider the structure of the performance mechanisms. Using multuple projectors with live and recorded feeds these sessions also aimed to define the overall form of the final work.

Photos: Christopher Ash


2015 Development Notes 

Following on from BODY LANGUAGE 101, David Bolger spent two weeks in the studio in November 2015 with designer and projection artist Christopher Ash and dancers Justine Cooper and Jonathan Mitchell to explore the subject of non verbal communication further in the digital as well as physical realm.

Nuance, detail, subtle themes and contrasts picked up by the camera were explored and studied together with looking at how body language changes as we age. David Bolger and Christopher Ash will now reflect on this process with the intention of coming back together with the dancers this time next year to move the creative process forward. Final production of this work is now anticipated in 2017.



BODY LANGUAGE 101 | Initial Development Sessions & Showings in November 2014

DIRECTOR’S NOTE by David Bolger from BODY LANGUAGE 101 Programme: 

“It is said that over 65% of all our communication is non-verbal. We receive information through body language, gesture, posture, how we look, what we sound like and the clothes we choose to wear. The tells and clues that are sent out from our limbic system (the “emotional brain”) are unplanned and natural. It is difficult to make our body language lie. As a choreographer I am naturally inquisitive about body language. Is it possible to choreograph a work about it and be true to the spontaneous nature of our behaviour? Today we are sharing some of the work and sketches that we have made over the last three weeks of studio research. They are not finished, but rather the start of our journey into the fascinating science of the body. ‘The flesh made word’ as it were.
I would like to thank the dancers Emma, Justine and Mitch for the passion they bring to our daily research, to all at CoisCéim Dance Theatre, Science Gallery Dublin, St Patrick’s College and everyone who has help us get this far. I look forward to and welcome your feedback, which will help form part of the findings and outcome of BODY LANGUAGE as we continue development over the next two years.” 
David Bolger, 14 November 2014

BODY LANGUAGE 101 was part of a collaboration between CoisCéim Dance Theatre, Science Gallery Dublin and Shimmer to investigate and further understand non verbal communication.  It had a special focus on audience experience and how to measure this in a meaningful way.

Choreography, Design and Video Sequences David Bolger
Dancers  Justine Cooper, Jonathan Mitchell, Emma O’Kane
Sound  Ivan Birthistle, Vincent Doherty
Intern  Fiona Patten
Photography  Luca Truffarelli
Special Thanks to Stephanie Ryan, Patrick Sutton & Smock Alley Theatre, Rua Red Gallery, the LAB and St Patrick’s College


18 November 2014 | St Patrick’s College | Drumcondra, Ireland
19 November 2014 | South Dublin Arts Centre | Tallaght, Ireland
20 November 2014 | The Lab | Dublin, Ireland
21 November 2014 | Smock Alley Theatre | Dublin, Ireland
25 November 2014 | St. Patrick’s College | Drumcondra, Ireland**
**part of CoisCéim’s Residency at St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra.


Photos: Luca Truffarelli


BODY LANGUAGE has been developed with the support of







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by David Bolger & Christopher Ash

World Premiere

CoisCéim in collaboration with RHA Gallery

17 November – 10 December 2017  

Royal Hibernian Academy, 15 Ely Place, Dublin 2, Ireland