Rhythm Room

by Nicola Kealy, Dance and drama teacher, Rhythm Room

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Rhythm Room started out as a small seed in October 2000, when I was given the opportunity to start teaching drama in the Daughters of Charity centre, St Teresa’s, in Blackrock, Co. Dublin. The seed was then germinated through weekly workshops with dedicated students over a period of nine years.

During that time, many original pieces of work were created which also involved working with people from outside the community, musicians, artists and other drama enthusiasts. I was also working with people from St Michael’s House Services on the north side of Dublin and the thought occurred to me to bring these students together and run a two-day workshop in Blackrock. The coming together enabled people to share ideas, meet like.minded people and have fun. So with the support of Maria Kennedy and the staff of St Teresa’s, Ann O’ Dwyer, the manager of St Michael’s House Belcamp and the staff at Solas support centre—that is just what happened. The workshops were a great success and the idea of Rhythm Room began to take shape.

Soon after the workshops I came in contact with the Camphill community Greenacres which is based in Dundrum, Co. Dublin. They joined the Blackrock group for drama every Wednesday, bringing great energy, enthusiasm and volunteers. Our group reached a new level and we began to be able to make truly integrated theatre. Over the course of three years great strides were made, producing three plays for public performance. The first, The story of my broken heart, was for the Birr Arts Festival. The second, The stolen princess, was part of an EU project called The Intercultural Fairytale Festival, and the third was A midsummer’s nite, performed as part of the Camphill Arts Festival in Airfield House Dundrum.

In August 2009, St Teresa’s closed down. Alternative space was found—The Lab in Foley Street, Dublin. Together with my friend and associate Mischa O’Mahony, the Rhythm Room came to life. Since September 2009 the new and wonderful space in The Foley Street Lab has provided an accessible venue for the workshops.

Clockwise from top: Nicola and Norah improvising a scene from Tea. Stephen, Jessica, Alice and Michelle Jamming. Nicola, Andrew and Shane working on rhythms.

From top: A Midsummer’s Nite. Siobhain in a tense scene from a Midsummer’s Nite. Oberon looks on in despair as his plan unravels. Alice, Jessica, Mischa.

Rhythm Room is about bringing people from all walks of life together to make drama, music and movement. Our aim is to make art accessible to everyone, creating our own unique productions in the process. So far this year we have had a wonderful mix of students from all over Dublin coming to our classes. Some travel independently and others are facilitated by staff. Occupational Therapy students have enthusiastically joined us, with participating volunteers from Korea, Germany and Brazil, to name but a few.

Our workshops are about giving people with special needs a safe and stimulating space to dance, be creative, use their voice and move to the rhythm of life. We wish to empower and embolden all who attend with the knowledge that everyone has the power to create and be creative.

There is a great social element to Rhythm Room, as it is a place where you can meet people, make new friends and share your thoughts and ideas.

Although we are a new company we have been very busy this year. We have just finished our first production a light-hearted musical called TEA. TEA was devised by the afternoon group and was performed as part of The Greenacres Family Festival in Airfield Gardens on 5 June 2010. It was the first time that some of the actors had performed for the general public, alongside some more seasoned performers. The production was a great success and we are already thinking about ideas for our next one.

We are also working on a showcase of the morning group’s work. This will comprise a series of short pieces that the group have been working on. These pieces are shaped by the group and will feature the findings and developments of each participant. It’s always a revelation what emerges from each group. Even though working towards a final piece is fun and rewarding, the main element is the workshops themselves—the here and now. Each workshop is a little journey in itself, rooted in the moment.

What people have to say about Rhythm Room:
‘I like everyone in the class, the exercise and movement is
good.’ Susan.
‘It’s great fun and I love acting’. Deirdre.
‘I like the movement and playing statues.’ Jessica.
‘I like improvising and meeting my friends.’ Michelle.
‘I like acting and meeting my friends.’ Stephen.
‘I love acting.’ John.

Rhythm Room is supported by The Camp hill Community Greenacres (www.camphillcommunity.ie/greenacres) and it is assisted by volunteers Brona Gibney and Seol Young Park.

For more information go to www.rhythmroomdublin.com.

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