Photo by Leon Farrell
BLOG POST 12. This is my final blog post. As I write, I am in the final week of rehearsals for Jockey. My fellow artistic collaborators, Sophie, Sarah- Jane, Jack, Kilian, our producer Kate, stage manager Caoimhe, production manager Adam, racing consultant Dave Donohue and good friends Shane and Muirne have been passionately working hard and putting in long hours to fully realise this whole journey into a theatre and dance performance that is for you, the public - our audience. We work well as a team and the sound of laughter resounds frequently in the rehearsal room. If there isn't laughter, what's the point? I've been dancing, choreographing, acting, structuring, perfecting and rehearsing for 8 hours a day. Yes, there have been sleepless nights but that is just par for the course.
This whole project has been incredible. When I look back to day one, when I got up on a horse for the first time, to where I am now it feels like a long time ago. I've covered some ground and met genuinely interesting and lovely individuals throughout. Like everything in life there have been highs and lows. The moments of uncertainty; will I be able to recover from my injury to get back riding and dancing. Is this the injury that ends my career? Despair at the thought that I may not find any of Phillip's articles and then what? Not wanting to give up, but having to face the reality that I may have to, because without his voice I don't know whether this is in my blood?
The highlights have been many; I can still remember the emotion of reading my Grandfather's words for the first time. Finding the name and racing colours of a horse that he adored. A horse that he sold to Hollywood. Being coached by Warren O'Connor is the icing on the cake and is the true essence of what this project is for me, learning to ride. Warren is a born coach and any young jockey starting out will be blessed to be under his tutelage. His expertise and passion for coaching abounds. I have learnt first-hand from Warren the realities of a jockey's life. I have experienced physically what jockeys go through and I salute each and every one of them! It's incredibly difficult and it requires a super human amount of physical and mental strength. But, it's beautiful. I can see the attraction, the pull and the draw. It is like dancing on a horse; fine tuning technique, rhythm and balance to utter perfection.
Through reading Phillip's articles it is evident the vast knowledge that he had for his beloved subject. I feel now that I know the gentleman that he was, whereas before he was just a name to me, the Grandfather that I never knew. His prolific knowledge covered racing in France, New Zealand, India, America, and Australia. He wrote historically about the Early History of the Horse, Riding Styles, and was brimming with facts on the genealogy of many horses from the Darley Arabian to Gallinule, St Simon and Signoretta. He wrote about the Spanish Riding School of Vienna and The Galway Blazers, the Aly Khan, Fred Archer, Saumur, the USA Bloodstock Market, the Rehabilitation of Racehorses, and most importantly he defended Irish Racehorses against being defined as British as early as the 1940s. He was a pillar and a pioneer and I am so grateful to have learnt about him through his articles.
I met Francis Hyland at the beginning of this journey, where he gave me some excellent advice on how to look for Phillip's articles and evidence of his bloodstock agency. Meeting him again at Leopardstown races a few weeks ago, I realised that Francis remembers some tic-tac. This way of communicating between bookmakers was mentioned to us by artist and director of the Lir Academy, Loughlin Deegan, who grew up working for his bookmaker father. Francis introduced me to some gentlemen who remember tic-tac. It's a beautiful, visual language, and I understand it now better than I understand the odds themselves. English tic-tac and Irish tic-tac are very different, for me the Irish tic-tac is more expressive.
I've been watching races live and on screen, at Punchestown, Leopardstown, Lingfield and the Curragh. Analysing how the jockeys are riding their races. It hasn't been lost on me that we have been rehearsing Jockey above a bookies in Dublin, in my home from home, CoisCeim Studios. What are the odds! On a Friday we'd drop in, place a bet and go next door to the pub to watch the race, hand out flyers to the locals who would give me their odds on a dancer being able to ride a racehorse.
And now the final stage, it isn't a performance without an audience. Thank you for reading and I hope you can travel the last furlong with me.
€10 discount tickets for groups, quote 'DANCE' at box office in GB Shaw, Theatre, Carlow. See Willfredd.com for details.