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Hard To Be Soft Hard To Be Soft: A Belfast Prayer

Five reasons to see Hard to be Soft: A Belfast Prayer

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Created by Belfast-based choreographer and dancer Oona Doherty, Hard to Be Soft is a reflection on the inner lives of Belfast's inhabitants. Here are five reasons it should be top of your list of things to see in the final week of this year's International Festival. 

1. Oona Doherty is a rising star

Oona Doherty is an Irish choreographer based in Belfast. Since 2010 she has created dance and theatre works and toured internationally with companies such as TRASH (NL), Abbattoir Ferme (BE), Veronika Riz (IT), Emma Martin /United Fall (IE). During her last visit to Edinburgh in 2017, Oona’s work Hope Hunt & The Ascension Into Lazarus won the Edinburgh Fringe Total Theatre Award and The Place Dance Award Edinburgh Fringe. 

One of the most exciting talents to emerge in contemporary dance

The Irish Times on Oona Doherty

Hard to be Soft: A Belfast Prayer | Photo: Luca Truffarelli
2. It’s beautiful and thought-provoking 
“I want to create a dance theatre work that abstracts the broken memories of my youth of Northern Ireland into a neon bright prayer” Oona Doherty


Hard to be Soft is based on the experiences and realities of people living in today’s Belfast. It’s a reflection on their hometown, and an ode to the inner lives of Belfast’s hard men and strong women. Touching on masculinity, sectarianism, culture, class, and sexuality, this is a piece of contemporary dance rooted in a belief in the power of the arts to bring about social change. 

3. There’s a local connection

Ahead of the opening performance on Wednesday night, choreographer Oona Doherty is working with 12 young female dancers from House of Jack, a Leith based hip-hop collective. They will dance Episode II – The Sugar Army in all four Edinburgh performances of Hard to Soft, inspired by the ‘harsh, strong’ girls Oona encountered during her teenage years at St Louise’s Comprehensive on Falls Road, Belfast. Oona has recruited and trained a local Sugar Army in every city where the show has been performed so far.  

4. Music by a superstar DJ

The driving soundtrack to Hard to be Soft is provided by DJ David Holmes. David is a Belfast born DJ & producer and a frequent collaborator with Doherty. In his varied professional life, he has produced over seven of his own albums and twenty film soundtracks including Killing Eve, Ocean’s Eleven, and Hunger. 

5. It’s critically acclaimed 

Hard to be Soft: A Belfast Prayer appeared as part of the Belfast International Arts Festival and Dublin Dance Festival in 2018, attracting widespread critical acclaim. 

‘[Oona Doherty’s] outstanding solo weaves a tapestry of heartache and suffering’

Exeunt Magazine

Hard to be Soft is a piece that needs to be seen again and again

The Irish News

Hard To Be Soft: A Belfast Prayer tackles some difficult themes and raises some hard questions in this thought provoking and often mesmerising production.

The Arts Review


Hard to be Soft: A Belfast Prayer is sponsored by Edinburgh Gin

Hard To Be Soft © Luca Truffarelli

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