Festival 2019

Oona Doherty Hard to be Soft – A Belfast Prayer

  • Southbank Centre
  • 11 October 2019

Delving deep into the psyche of her native Belfast, Oona Doherty’s searing evocation of the city’s streets and inhabitants is rich in simple yet revealing imagery, shot through with a visceral physicality.

Incense rises through the darkness. A lone character emerges, posturing defiantly, barely unable to conceal the turmoil beneath such exaggerated masculinity. An army of young women pound the stage in tribal formation, their synchronised display intimidating yet not free from vulnerability. Father and son tussle over a tortured family history.

Unfolding over four distinct verses, this tender tribute weaves everyday stories into a tapestry of mesmerising movement, religious iconography and haunting sound by DJ David Holmes (Killing Eve, Ocean’s Eleven, Hunger). Dance becomes a medium for understanding and perhaps a catalyst for social change.

Presented by Dance Umbrella in partnership with Southbank Centre
British Council, Arts Council Northern Ireland, Belfast International festival and Dublin Dance Festival

“The most exciting young voice in contemporary dance”

Watch: Oona Doherty on how she choreographed Hard to Be Soft +

Gallery +

Photos: Teresa Elwes

  • Oona Doherty - Hard to be Soft
  • Oona Doherty - Hard to be Soft
  • Oona Doherty - Hard to be Soft
  • Oona Doherty - Hard to be Soft

Creative team and performers +

Creative team

  • Oona Doherty
  • David Holmes
  • Ciaran Bagnall
  • Luca Truffarelli
  • Jack Phelan
    AV Design
  • Eoin Kilkenny
    Production Manager
  • Siobhan Barbour
    Stage Manager
  • Una NicEoin for Prime Cut Productions


  • Charlie Taylor, Oliver Andrews-Waller & Leo Udvarlaky
    Gate Boys
  • Oona Doherty
    Episode I – Lazarus & the Birds of Paradise
  • Alicia Coates, Iolanda Dickson, Lottie Hawkins, Erin Eastmond, Emilia Gould, Paige Lilley, Anna Mallinson, Jada Small-Elcock, Evie Tolley, Tate Tooby
    Episode II – Sugar Army
  • John Scott & Sam Finnegan
    Episode III – Meat Kalidascope
  • Oona Doherty
    Episode IV – Helium

Press +

“The most exciting young voice in contemporary dance.“
The Guardian’s No. 1 Dance Show of 2019

“To see Oona Doherty perform is a privilege. Her honesty when she moves is enthralling; she takes you on a cathartic and intense journey.”
★★★★★ Seeing Dance

“Doherty is a phenomenal performer who makes the air electric.“
The Times

“Sensitive yet unflinching, raw and richly choreographed, Doherty’s dance is a major achievement.“
★★★★★ The Guardian

“Oona Doherty, I am sure of this, is the real deal.“
Exeunt Magazine

“To watch Oona Doherty dance is to witness something quite supernatural.“
Art Review

“Out of this surges characters – men and women – sketched deftly with gesture and gait; a fresh interpretation of “street dance” as dance that gave us the life of the street in all its chaotic intensity.“
★★★★★ Dance Tabs


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