In 2022 Dance Artist Rob Heaslip revived the cultural tradition of ‘The Strawboys’ with a modern twist, as he unveiled his vibrant pop-up work, across the west coast this summer, across Kerry, Clare and Galway. Performances in Clare took place in Ennis, Kilrush, Lisdoonvarna and Tuamgramey.

Strawboys is the second work in Rob Heaslip’s trilogy, exploring rituals of death, life and birth amongst the Gaels, the people on the north-western edge of Europe.

Featuring luminous straw dancers whirling to Balkan inspired beats, the work is a unique spin on the cultural tradition of ‘The Strawboys’, also known as Mummers, Rhymers, and Wren Boys. The groups are often identified by their ornate straw costumes while out rambling streets, fields, towns and parks, parading their merriment to the joy of onlookers. Having once thrived across Scotland and Ireland, the tradition is now enjoying a revived interest, notably as the Wren Boys of Ireland and the Skekklers of Shetland.

The performance features professional dancers Sophie Hutchinson, Favour Odusola, Aneta Dortová and Salma Ataya. Composers Zoe Katsilerou and Eilon Morris infuse lively Balkan vibes to match the colour popping costumes and woven masks of Scottish Costume Designer Alison Brown.

Supported by The Arts Council in partnership with Town Hall Theatre Galway, Galway City Council, Galway County Council, Siamsa Tíre – The National Folk Theatre of Ireland, Kerry County Council, glór Ennis, Clare County Council.

Info on Rob Heaslip

A native of Kerry, Rob Heaslip works internationally as a Dance Artist. Within his professional practice Rob Heaslip is a choreographer, dancer, movement director and teacher creating his own ensemble work, as well as collaborative works.

Rob began his career with the National Folk Theatre of Ireland, training at both the Scottish School of Contemporary Dance and the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance at University of Limerick. As an artist he has had a career-long interest in oral and language traditions, performing arts and social, ritual and festive practices, their roles as inspiration for and choreographic agents within his devising process. His practice looks to his own relationship to ICH as the impetus of his creative process, abstracting traditional rites and rituals and then placing them on the present-day stage.

His work identifies as both contemporary and traditional performance. Rob does this to challenge preconceptions that tradition, folklore and heritage are static, un-evolving entities. He believes them to be living, breathing, current cultural movements.

As an artist he is interested in how he can re-imagine human rituals for the viewer of today; asking how can the performing body be a vessel for intertwining dance, voice and design? His style combines movement and theatricality with mythos, neon lights, synth music and contemporary design to portray stories about people, how they think, move and act amongst each other.

In 2012 Rob created his first ensemble work ‘MEITHEAL’. He has since created ‘FREAGRA: A Blurred Expanse’ in 2016 and he is currently creating the Trilogy ‘A Glimpse of Flesh and Blood’ which re-imagines rituals of death, life and birth amongst the Gaels on the north-western edge of Europe. The first work ‘ENDLING’ looks to funerary rites, while ‘Strawboys’ is a celebration of life. He collaborates regularly with Irish Artist Laura Murphy, having co-created ‘Wunderbar’ in 2014 and ‘You and Me, and You’ in 2016.

He was the Director and Choreographer for Glasgow Youth Dance Company until 2016, creating numerous works. He also works in dance-on-screen, having choreographed scenes and opening credits for the internationally acclaimed TV series Outlander. In 2010 he was assistant choreographer at the Handover Ceremony of the Commonwealth Games at New Delhi, India