Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre


Rian Unplugged

featuring Liam Ó Maonlaí


Director and Choreographer Michael Keegan-Dolan


Fabulous Beast is touring Rian Unplugged around Ireland creating an exciting opportunity for audiences to see this amazing show.

Winner of a 2013 Bessie (New York Dance and Performance Award) for Outstanding Production, Rian premiered in the Dublin Theatre Festival in 2011.  It has toured to the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Italy, USA, Austria, France, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Singapore. Rian has been seen and loved by more than 40,000 people across the world.

In Rian eight hugely talented dancers from around the world share the stage with five of Ireland’s top musicians in a joyful pairing of dance and traditional Irish music.

This ‘unplugged’ version is performed away from the traditional stage bringing the audience up close to the performance, creating an intimate and magical experience.

 Solstice Arts Centre, Navan, 17 September 2014 

Dunamaise Arts Centre, Portlaoise,  19 September 2014 

glór, Ennis, 20 September 2014

An Grianán Theatre, Letterkenny,  24 September 2014

Ballina Arts Centre ,  25 September 2014

Backstage Theatre at Connolly Barracks, Longford,  26 September 2014

Hawk's Well Theatre, Sligo,  27 September 2014

The Dock, Carrick-on-Shannon,  28 September 2014


“It’s an evening of buoyant rhythms and happy atmosphere; it really does feel like a party on stage.” – The Independent

“A non-stop 80-minute feast for the senses” Daily Telegraph Sydney

“An extraordinary piece of dance theatre that manages to be both seamless entertainment and a rich insight into Irish culture.” Irish Times


Co-produced by Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre and Sadler’s Wells, London

Further details on the Touring Page

The Rite of Spring & Petrushka DTP UK Tour: Photos of technical rehearsals at venues along the tour, taken by cast member Moritz Ostruschnjak

Picture from the wings: the final moments of Petrushka at Sadler's Wells, London. Photo: Moritz Ostruschnjak

The Rite of Spring & Petrushka: UK Tour Opens Tonight

Our stunning new photographs at Killashee Bog in Longford were taken to celebrate Fabulous Beast’s newly re-worked Stravinsky double bill, The Rite of Spring & Petrushka, and its UK Tour opens at Blackpool tonight.

Details of the 18 performances at 10 venues around the UK are on our touring page. But, even better, this Dance Touring Partnership  tour has its own dedicated website where, as well as performance listings, you’ll find information on the many workshops and post-show talks, educational resource packs, and blogs from the road.

Check it out:


Fabulous Beasts at Killashee Bog, Longford, March 2014

Stravinsky Double Bill, The Rite of Spring & Petrushka

Photographs by Richard Gilligan

Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre is delighted to announce its partnership with Step Up: Dance Project 2014, while Michael Keegan-Dolan will be the programme’s guest choreographer.

Applications are now being accepted and details are below.


Step Up: Dance Project 2014: Open Call For Recent Dance Graduates

This year Step Up: Dance Project will be a partnership with Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre.  The project will give dance graduates an opportunity to work under the direction of choreographer Michael Keegan-Dolan. 

Step Up: Dance Project, aims to bridge the gap between dance education and professional contemporary dance practice in Ireland.  The programme will enhance these dancers’ professional networks by connecting them to the Irish contemporary dance community and improving their professional opportunities in Ireland.

We are seeking applications from exceptional young dancers who will graduate in summer 2014 or who have graduated from professional level dance training within the past three years. 

Six participants will be selected to work with Michael Keegan Dolan and 4 members of Fabulous Beast in a six-week programme of rehearsals and development running 07 July to 17 August. The programme includes studio sharings in at Dance Limerick, DanceHouse in Dublin and at the Firkin Crane in Cork over the last weekend of the project 14 – 17 August.

Accommodation will be provided near UL and participants will receive an honorarium for their involvement.  Applicants must be born or currently resident in the Republic of Ireland and have a strong dance technique.

Please send your CV, a web link of recent dance footage, along with a one-page cover letter describing why you would like to be involved in the project. Please e-mail applications by the deadline 5pm, Wednesday, April 16th 2014 to Dance Limerick (info@dancelimerick.ie) with Step Up: Dance Project 2014 in the subject line.

A shortlist of applicants will be invited to audition with the choreographer at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance on Friday 9th May 2014.  Six dancers will then be selected from audition to take part in this year’s programme.  Letters of offer will be sent in early May.

Step Up: Dance Project, is a partnership between the Arts Council, Dance Ireland, Dance Limerick and the University of Limerick. 

For any questions about the application process, please contact Lisa Hallinan, General Manager at stepupdanceproject@gmail.com or on 086 855 8509.

Andrei Tarkovsky said ; Art is born and takes hold wherever there is a timeless and insatiable longing for the spiritual, for the ideal: that longing which draws people to art. Modern art has taken the wrong turn in abandoning the search for the meaning of existence in order to affirm the value of the individual for his own sake. What purports to be art begins to looks like an eccentric occupation for suspect characters who maintain that any personalized action is of intrinsic value simply as a display of self-will. But in an artistic creation the personality does not assert itself it serves another, higher and communal idea. The artist is always the servant, and is perpetually trying to pay for the gift that has been given to him as if by a miracle. Modern man, however, does not want to make any sacrifice, even though true affirmation of the self can only be expressed in sacrifice. We are gradually forgetting about this, and at the same time, inevitably, losing all sense of human calling.

Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre Workshop, London, Saturday April 12th

Dancers, actors and musicians are invited to apply to participate in a one day workshop led by Michael Keegan-Dolan, artistic director of Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre (www.fabulousbeast.net).

The workshop will be held in London at Sadler’s Wells, and will involve an exploration of yoga, dance, theatre and music; and how and where these worlds cross-over.

The workshop will give each participant an opportunity to meet Michael Keegan-Dolan and together with other artists interact with his creative processes.  There will be no atmosphere of auditioning, the objective will be to create a space that allows creativity to flourish and encourages the cultivation of the self. 

Artists who may have participated in a workshop before are very welcome to apply again. Artists who may have unsuccessfully applied on a previous occasion are welcome to apply again.

Workshop will be limited to a maximum of 16 participants.

Applicants should email a short CV, a photograph and a brief letter explaining why they would like to take part to: workshops@fabulousbeast.net

Deadline for applications: Saturday March 15th. Successful applicants will be notified by Saturday March 22nd 2014

Workshop Details

Date: Saturday 12th April 2014

Schedule:  Saturday 9:00–13:00 & 14:30–16:30

Venue: Sadler’s Wells, London


Michael Keegan-Dolan regrets that he will be unable to notify unsuccessful applicants.

Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre will be returning to Sadlers Wells, London for two nights, on the 11th and 12th of April as part of our UK tour in association with the Dance Touring Partnership. We will be performing our Stravinsky Double Bill with a 65-piece orchestra led by David Brophy and a company of 17 dancers. It should be quite an event. Hope to see you there.


Fabulous Beast Workshops, November 2013

Dublin Dancers, actors and musicians are invited to apply to participate in a five-day workshop led by Michael Keegan-Dolan, artistic director of Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre. The workshops will be held in Dublin, and will involve an exploration of yoga, dance, theatre and music; and how and where these worlds cross over. The workshops will give each participant an opportunity to meet Michael Keegan-Dolan and together with other artists interact with his creative processes. There will be no atmosphere of auditioning, the objective will be to create a space which allows creativity to flourish and the encourages the cultivation of the self. All experienced professional performers are welcome to apply but priority will be given to those who have an interest in working with Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre on future dance theatre projects scheduled for 2014 and onwards. Artists who may have participated in a workshop before are very welcome to apply again. Also, artists who may have unsuccessfully applied on a previous occasion are welcome to apply again. Workshops will be limited to a maximum of 16 participants. Applicants should email a short CV, a photograph and a brief letter explaining why they would like to take part, to the following address: workshops@fabulousbeast.net Dublin (venue tbc): 25th November to 29th November 2013 Approximate Schedule: Monday to Friday, 10.00–13.00 & 14.30–17.30 All workshops are free of charge Deadline for applications:. October 25th. Successful applicants will be notified by Friday 1st November 2013. Michael Keegan-Dolan regrets that he will be unable to notify unsuccessful applicants.

If you close your eyes and listen to Handels’ music with attention you will see images. If you remain open and stand in a responsive space the music will find a way to move you. The feet may initiate, or the hands, and the rest of the body will follow. Shapes are born and transitions present themselves and as one shape segues into the next, phrases are made. The initial movements are like letters and when joined make words. The words quickly become sentences. If you are clear in advance about the rules of engagement, (simple, harmonious, musical,) the choreography created will have integrity and a style of its own.

Many of Handel’s arias are built around simple dance rhythms. They are also often built around an internal conversation - a soliloquy or a prayer to a deity, zephyr or spirit. The fact that there are only two duets in three hours of singing is not without significance. Sesto invokes the furies. Cleopatra prays to Venus. Caesar sings to the Zephyrs, Cornelia refers to the ‘God’s relenting,’ and even Achilla calls to the Gods. The presence of the unseen world in Julius Caesar is all the more important as there is a direct relationship between these unseen mythological realities and each character’s psychological disposition, either conscious or unconscious. The recits, which drive the action onwards and precede each aria, nearly always result in a character being dropped into an ocean of profound hope or fear.

Although Christian Curnyn and I have greatly reduced the amount of recit in this production, I have attempted to replace anything we have cut with an image or an action. Actions speak louder than words, and images speak a thousand words.

The dances I have made reflect the yearning of the characters to connect with the universal and express each of the characters attempt to find resolution, and end their suffering. It’s this struggle that creates the movements. I want this. I can’t have this. I will do this to get what I want. If I don’t get what I want I will do this and so on and on. Action is never without a cause and if we are not careful every action we make creates another cause. As a choreographer or director one is vulnerable to making the mistake of adding too many extra elements to what Handel has given us when in fact all that is necessary is to thoroughly excavate what is already there and simply allow its implicit power to emerge.

Sesto compares herself to a wounded vengeful serpent. Handel has written wonderful music to support this; the dance I have made reflects the music more than the theatrical image. Showing and telling is never a good thing. It would be a mistake, for example to create a figurative serpent dance. It is much more interesting to allow the fluidity and speed with which a serpent moves to influence the choreography. Adding ice cream to cream already on a slice of apple tart will smother any taste of apple. The object here is to allow the music to evoke an image and create a dance that is in empathy with that image, a dance that sits so well with the rhythm and tonicity of the music that it does not in any way interfere with it but instead allows something else to surface, something entirely itself, something entirely new. In this way when singing of a certain quality meets dancing of a certain quality a third thing is created. It is this third thing, this other thing that is of most interest to me.

I have always thought it that if singers were expected to move in the opera then the dancers should be expected to sing. On reflection this dogmatic principle is perhaps too rigid. What has become clear is that the singers must be free to entirely commit to their singing and the dancers to their dancing.

When these arias are sung clearly in a space that supports the singer, (an intelligently designed space that supports the sound being made) its implicit magic comes through with such force that on occasion its beauty is unbearable. Wherever possible I encouraged the singers to relax their faces, keep their hands free of tension and to focus on the words, usually a simple, repeated phrase expressing a need or want or desire. I have always found that the repetition in Handel’s Da Capo form creates a wonderful intensity and although the words are repeated they never seem to mean the same thing twice. Like an incantation, it is only truly transformative when the attention of the practitioner is uninterrupted - in order to tap something deeper there can be no distractions. In the world of Handel’s Julius Caesar, the aria is the mantra and its power can only truly find expression if the singer’s attention is unbroken, the shape of their body free from distortion and the space in which they stand is properly focused

In this opera all of the characters are changed by actions taken to pursue their needs. Cornelia wants vengeance for her husband’s murder, as does her daughter Sesto. Caesar wants to be united with his love, Cleopatra. Ptolemy wants to remain King of Egypt and will do want ever is necessary to achieve this. Cleopatra wants Ptolemy dead, to be queen of Egypt and in the process of attempting this, falls in love with Caesar. It is clear to me that Handel was conscious of how even the finest, most gifted and powerful people in the world are helpless when overcome by their desire. It is this desire, which is at the root of their suffering and it is through their suffering that they change either by dying, by loosing their innocence as with Sesto or by becoming wiser.

The last lines of the opera are, ‘let us all unite in love and joy,’ it is only through all the violence, vengeance, torture and murdering that the central characters can learn to see the eternal value of unity, love and joy. We suffer and suffer until finally we become still enough, quiet enough, refined enough for our eyes to open and finally understand that the idea that we are isolated is an illusion and allow ourselves to surrender to the universal power of unity, love and joy.

Michael Keegan-Dolan, October 2012

Dancing to be Reunited

To dance is to burn as you pound out a rhythm with your feet – an act of sacrifice to the supreme intelligence that bestows on us the creative gifts which is our only means to attain liberation.

We pray for wisdom to clarify our seeing, hearing and feeling so that we may slip behind the veils of delusion, overcome the illusion of separation (the root of all suffering) and draw on the creative source. 

Hearing clearly what is outside and within we reduce the scope and interference of the judgmental mind. Through clear seeing we become aware of what is in front, around and inside of us. The internal world can then begin to manifest the secret myths that will guide us on our journey. Through feeling the air on the skin and the energetic currents beneath it as the limbs move in space the dancer becomes aware of all sensations from the grossest to the very finest. 

The dancer whose senses are engaged like this grows ever closer to the great creator and the longer the engagement, the greater the transformation. The capacity to maintain this connection comes from training with great discipline, patience and restraint.

Dancing is the art of transformation, the integrated, rhythmic, coordinated movement of the limbs in space, the feet the engine and the hands the expression. The sides of the body create shape and as the shape of the body changes so does the space the dance inhabits. This alchemy evokes spontaneous and universal symbols and rhythms. 

Through acquiring the understanding and skills necessary to consciously participate in this transformation we experience and transmit truth 

We dance to be reunited with the creative core from which we came.

Michael Keegan-Dolan

Rian performance video by Ben Dowden. For more information see the Rian production page.

A short trailer for Rian. Video by Ben Dowden.

For more information and additional video, see the Rian production page.

‘Choreographing the Unanticipated: Death, Hope and Verticality in Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre’s Giselle and The Rite of Spring’ is a recent essay by Aoife McGrath. It is available to download from InformaWorld.

Fabulous Beast seeks to recruit a producer to work closely with The Artistic Director and The Board of Directors. Download further information below.

With new work in development for Irish audiences for the first time in over two years, Fabulous Beast dance theatre company is emerging from a highly turbulent period. Its artistic director Michael Keegan-Dolan talks about his plans and work-in-progress, in which ‘there’s absolutely no difference between a gesture and a word’.

Letting his Inner Critic Loose — an interview by Peter Crawley with Michael Keegan-Dolan, on the Irish Theatre Review website.

Check out this video from the Sadler’s Wells website. This is some work we did on a piece with a working title La Symphonie Imaginaire. I hope to present this work in Ireland next year with perhaps eight dancers, an empty space and a CD! 


Michael Keegan-Dolan will be in residence at the Backstage Theatre in Longford during December, working on the development phase of his latest project, working title Helen + Hell, with a team of Ireland’s most talented artists drawn from the worlds of theatre, dance and music. Many of Michael’s previous productions have been inspired by the Irish Midlands, where he lives and works. We are grateful to the Backstage Theatre for hosting this important part of our creative process.

On Friday 17 December and Saturday 18 December there will be two special work in progress showings of Helen + Hell, at the Backstage Theatre in Longford. Details can now be seen here (PDF).

The Body

Many images come and go. Some stay with you for years and refuse to go away. These are the images you have to take seriously. These are the images which are trying to tell you something either about yourself or something more general. Over the years I have slowly begun to realise that my personal development and the development of my work for the theatre are one and the same. When I become clear, so does my work.

In real time, in live theatre, the most exciting art of all, the body will always betray the actor no matter how apparently ‘good’ he or she is. For example, if the actor is playing the role of Macbeth in a traditional setting, he may be able to remember his lines and he may have a strong and beautiful voice but if we, the audience, can see by the size and shape of his gut and the weakness in his legs that he most probably has never ridden a horse and neither could he swing a broad sword with any real intent, we will be doomed to sit in disbelieving, disenchanted silence in the crowded seating bank for the duration of the production. Countless times I have heard an actor’s voice expertly expressing an emotion and I see behind it a body that is strangulated, rigid and expressionless; a body held to ransom by that actor’s own personal physicality and limited range of movement, bearing little or no resemblance to the imagined body of the portrayed character expressing the given emotion.

In spite of everything we impose upon ourselves in an attempt to make life more pleasing, we will always be fundamentally physical beings. We can stop walking, watch hours of television, use e-mail and carry a mobile phone but we can never until death escape the structure that encases our minds and our souls, if one is so disposed to believe in such things as souls. It is the separation between the mental and the physical, the cerebral and the visceral, the internal and the external that we have to be very careful of. Most actors are just talking heads and most dancers are not even headless bodies as many have had the sense and power of their own natural physicality taken from them by the pursuit of an external manifestation of perfection. They have neither body nor voice.

When I work with a group it should be clear that everyone is ready to undertake the process of training. If the body is not at a certain level of preparedness, injury will visit it. When prepared, we work to unblock blockages, sensitise areas of insensitivity and slowly remove physical habits or impositions that have been accumulated over the years. Eventually, and this can take many years, one will arrive back at a place where one’s body is open, free of mannerisms, sensitive and capable of working in unison with the mind.

Grotowski wrote that an actor cannot become another person until the actor can truly and fully be themselves. I agree with this. How can we inhabit the physicality of a character we must play when we cannot fully inhabit our own? We in the world of the theatre are obliged to discover our true natures, our true bodies and our true voices.

When I work to develop how a character might move, dance or talk, I look first at the physical structure, the appearance of that character. For example, is he tall, small, heavy or light? Does he move sharply or roll from one gesture to the next. How much tension does he hold in his muscles while resting? What element dominates his physicality: fire, water, wind or earth? What is his or her natural tempo, what is his rhythm? How does he breathe? I no longer have any doubt that the external shape is a clear projection of the interior nature of a person.

I also work with sensation and energy. How do I feel when I visualise a certain type of person, either being that person or being in their company? Where does tension manifest in my body when I concentrate on this imagined character’s corporeal image: in the throat, the neck, the abdomen or pelvis? I see and then feel my way around the characters who will eventually occupy the landscape of the piece. These characters then become the building blocks of our productions.

A certain set of pre-existing physical characteristics automatically dictates how a person will move in space. Moving even more fully exposes the interior working of a character. When we walk down the street we are all unconsciously sending thousands of signals about who we are and passers by are all unconsciously picking these thousands of signals up. With a well trained eye and a sensitive nature one can read a person without hearing a word spoken. In this way words become secondary. The voice and its quality are secondary to that of the body and its quality. The voice is dependent on the body. In a sense, the body is the voice. Most actors’ faces are the most expressive and dextrous parts of their anatomy, closely followed by their hands. The rest of their instrument is very often left firmly behind in the shadows. However, we can teach the less developed regions of our anatomy with the parts which we use more expertly. By relaxing the face we can in fact effect the relaxation of the body. By making a fist and squeezing it softly we can teach our abdomens to have the correct tone.

With the importance of the face in film and television, the lure of big money and the nature of our existing education system, it is tempting and easy to leave the body behind, but I would encourage you not to. Some day, sometime, somewhere you will encounter a performer who has both aspects of his or her being highly developed, but in equal measure. And when you do, you will never forget the experience.