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Luke Murphy returns to Pittsburgh for multimedia dance

| Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012, 8:53 p.m.
'Drenched' by Luke Murphy Credit: John Altdorfer

Irish dancer and choreographer Luke Murphy developed his creative voice in Pittsburgh at Point Park University. After graduation in 2009, he moved to New York City and most often works there and in the United Kingdom.

This week, Murphy is back in Pittsburgh to perform his newest work, “Drenched,” which is a multimedia exploration of relationships.

“For people in the audience, it's really kind of seeing themselves through a different lens — looking at something and finding ghosts of their own experience,” he says.

Kelly-Strayhorn Theater will present the U.S. premiere of “Drenched” on Friday and Saturday at the theater in East Liberty.

Murphy, 25, started his career as a freelance dancer, and began choreographing as soon as he moved to New York.

“I think a lot of people are doing it now, which is different because it used to be done as a second career,” he says.

“Drenched” is a duet with Juilliard School graduate Carlye Eckert, who also choreographs. David Fisher is the multimedia creator.

“It was a serendipitous opportunity that I would be able to work on this piece right about the time I came in contact with her as a dancer from seeing her with other people, the same time when I also met this very interesting video designer,” Murphy says.

“Drenched” was premiered in September in Dublin.

“Because the dance audience in Ireland would be small and less aware of contemporary dance, I wanted to make my piece one my friends, the ones I grew up with, could come and have access to, as well,” he says.

Writing for friends in Ireland reinforced basic perspectives on dance today.

“I think dance and the performing arts, in general — it may be different for spoken words in plays — are for the most part dealing with abstract materials. Movement, sound and the visual are great media to ask questions,” Murphy says. “You provoke questions in your audience by what they see and what they understand of the poetry of dance theater and performance.”

The new piece uses humor in exploring different kinds of relationships, performed to Sinead O'Connor's song “Nothing Compares 2 U” and other popular music.

“The video and music and text are drawn from sources of recognizably iconic nature, of things our audience has a richly emotional relationship with,” Murphy says. “Ultimately, I think in order to build a bigger audience for dance, there has to be an invitation to come in. A lot of contemporary arts audiences are already inside. For me, it's really important to keep the doors open for people who aren't used to interpreting things that are abstract.”

Murphy was born and raised in Cork, Ireland, moving in the middle of his high-school years to England to take dance and theater more seriously than he could at home.

“It's funny to commit yourself to something, especially something unconventional, at that age,” he says. “Looking back, it seems almost insane I did so. I decided I would take a year in America to study dance. I ended up sticking with it, really liking college and finding a voice for my dance. It was more than a career. It was something I wanted to do.”

Mark Kanny is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7877 or mkanny@tribweb.com

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