My Weekend: A fire was lit in me! I went on to pursue a life and career in dance

Lisa Cliffe is part of the dance collective Cork Dance Initiative, who take part in the Cork Midsummer Festival this month
My Weekend: A fire was lit in me! I went on to pursue a life and career in dance

Lisa Cliffe part of the dance collective Cork Dance Initiative,

TELL us a little bit about yourself:

I’m a County Limerick lady, from Croom originally. Both my parents are from Ballingarry, in West Limerick. I’m a true Treaty woman! I moved to Cork in 2017: A Cork man was the big draw to cross the border. That lovely man is Brian Cliffe, from Fermoy. We married in 2018 and live in Ballyphehane, Cork City.

I have two sisters, Marie and Patricia, and two brothers, Shane and Michael. My dad worked as an agri-store manager in Newtownshandrum. He’s retired now. My mum worked at home, rearing us. These days, she’s kept very busy, helping and supporting dad’s farming adventures and Done Deal enterprises! We are a close family and enjoy family meet-ups. I’ve three nieces and seven nephews. I love playing with them and pretending I’m a child again.

I went to secondary school in St Mary’s in Charleville, north Cork. After my Leaving Cert, I went to St Mary’s College, Strawberry Hill, in Twickenham, to study primary teaching and drama.

It was here that I found my true calling: Contemporary creative dance. As part of my course, I was introduced to creative dance. This aspect of the primary curriculum was really brought to life for me through the passion of the teacher.

I also had the opportunity to pursue a physical theatre performance module. It was here I met Maxine Doyle, of Punch Drunk contemporary dance company. Let’s just say there was no looking back. A fire was lit in me! From those experiences, I went on to pursue a life and career in dance.

Cork is home now. I would say that my evolving love and eagerness to garden and grow vegetables, in my tiny garden plot in Ballyphehane, has really helped me to settle in Cork.

Being part of Cork Dance Initiative, with Siobhán Ní Dhuinnín, Ruairí Ó’Donnabháin, and Luke Murphy, has really supported me in rooting here. I feel part of a community here in Cork that loves and values dance. This community is growing and getting louder! Exciting!

Cork Dance Initiative (CDI) are hosting a series of events, ‘In It For the Long Run’, as part of Cork Midsummer Festival 2021. I will host a CDI meet-and-greet market stall at the Coal Quay market on Saturday, June 19, from 9am to 3pm. This presentation opportunity is really about meeting curious persons face to face and offering a felt sense of the roots of this Cork dance collective.

What is your ideal way to spend a Friday night?

I enjoy spending Friday evenings with Brian. I often feel this time is filled with a sense of anticipation for the weekend ahead. A typical Friday evening would involve cooking and eating dinner together and planning a hike or trip to the beach.

Lie-ins or up with the lark.. which is it for you?

At this time of year, I’m up with the larks… I’ve recently joined Aclaí gym and I’m up bright and early to do my workout. I enjoy some quiet time in the mornings.

Does work creep into your weekend at all?

I would say that it definitely does, but often not in a deliberate way. When I’m involved in a project (whether I’m the creative lead or a participant), I will often be day dreaming about it or thinking about a problem or issue to be solved. I do enjoy unpressurised time at weekends to doodle, write, walk, and dance.

If money was no object, where would you head to on a weekend city break? And who would you bring with you?

If money and time were no object, I would bring my husband to northern Spain. We would take as much time as we wanted to walk one of the Camino ways, towards Santiago de Compostela. Ohhhh, I love that city. I’ve the most wonderful memories of walking alone, and with Brian, along the different routes of northern Spain.

Glenbower Woods is 'the most beautiful woodland' according to Lisa Cliffe, who loves to visit the area.
Glenbower Woods is 'the most beautiful woodland' according to Lisa Cliffe, who loves to visit the area.

Closer to home, is there some place you like to head to recharge the batteries?

I love Glenbower Woods, in Killeagh. I think it’s the most beautiful woodland. When the opportunity arises, Brian and I plan to travel to West Cork and Connemara for some downtime this summer.

Do you like to catch up with family/friends at the weekend?

Growing up, our family ritual was to visit our grandparents every Sunday. I love to visit my parents, or my parents-in-law, as often as possible. I try to balance visiting time with alone time with Brian. Our lives are busy and we try to prioritise quality time with each other.

Do you get to indulge any hobbies? Even as a spectator?

I’ve always nurtured a wide spectrum of hobbies. My mum was a wonderful supporter of our interests and hobbies. I love playing basketball and I can’t wait to return to the court. I have a keen interest in horse racing and GAA. This year, I absolutely loved the TnaG coverage of the AFL Women’s League in Australia. The Irish girls were amazing. I would watch any sport on TV. I have become a big rowing fan, also, as my husband is a keen oarsman. Other hobbies include flower pressing, experimental baking, and dress making.

Entertain or be entertained? If it’s the latter, do you have a signature dish?

I love to cook and bake for others. I probably prefer baking. I enjoy creating healthy treats and sharing with others. I think it’s my way of letting people know how much I appreciate them. I love sharing food, especially with my neighbours, friends, colleagues, and family.

We have so many places to eat out in Cork — where are your go-to spots for coffee/lunch/special meal?

The last place I ate out was at the Townhouse Cafe in Doneraile. Just before Christmas, my mum, sisters, and I went for a gorgeous breakfast there together. Afterwards, we went for a long walk around Doneraile Park. In Cork City, my most recent coffee haunt is Moly’s Cafe, on Douglas Street. It’s a great spot. I’m also looking forward to having lunch again in Orso.

Sunday night comes around too fast.. how do you normally spend it?

Pre-Covid, I would normally have been travelling back to Cork from visiting family, friends, or a weekend away with Brian. During recent Sundays, I’ve worked late into the evening in the garden.


Four Cork-based dance artists, Lisa Cliffe, Siobhán Ní Dhuinnín, Luke Murphy, and Ruairí Ó’Donnabháin, have come together to create Cork Dance Initiative (CDI). CDI is an evolving, artist-led dance collective in Cork. In It For the Long Run (2021) is the inaugural project of Cork Dance Initiative and will be presented at Cork Midsummer Festival, June 19 to 27. It features bite-size dance experiences, both in person and virtually, over a number of days.

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