February 26, 2002

Trinity jumped, jived, and jigged through Seán Curran’s new work.
Courtesy Trinity Irish Dance Company

Trinity Irish Dance Company

The Joyce Theater
New York, New York

February 26?March 3, 2002

Reviewed by Darrah Carr

With fast-flying feet and mesmerizing rhythms, the Trinity Irish Dance Company adamantly grabs one’s attention and holds it tight for two hours. The incredibly skillful cast of twenty-one dancers and three musicians has so much energy that it’s infectious. By the end of nearly every piece, the audience is clapping along, gasping at a leg flung particularly high or laughing at one of the musicians’ witty quips. During their recent return engagement at the Joyce, the company presented several entertaining signature works, as well as two premieres, both of which offered a compelling new take on the traditional conception of Irish dance.

Making its New York premiere, Jump, Jive and Jig, by guest choreographer Seán Curran, combined elements of jitterbug and swing with social and solo Irish dance steps. By inserting the uppity Irish locomotor step known as the “threes” into a swing-dance hold, Curran created a buoyant hybrid of step and swing?spring dance, one might call it. The blend of styles was seamless and charming, while the dancers’ presentation of Curran’s whimsical choreography demonstrated considerable growth in their theatrical capabilities.

As an interesting antidote to the primarily lighthearted program, Artistic Director Mark Howard presented the world premiere of Out of the Woods. Powerful and haunting, the piece was based on a personal dream that Howard recalled. It also spoke to our collective memory, however, seeming to reach further and deeper into a cultural wellspring where time and tradition flow together. Howard’s new choreography was not the customary presentation of Irish dance, being neither playful nor competitive. Instead, there was a fierce strength among the dancers. They performed with incredible urgency, as if the messages encoded in their feet held the keys to understanding how rhythm resonates with us on a primal, fundamental level. The underlying need to communicate these messages was particularly evident in a riveting call-and-response duet by dancers Darren Smith and Joe Smith.

While those two and the rest of Howard’s dancers are rhythmic powerhouses, the evening would not have been complete without the talented musicians, especially percussionist and composer Stone. During one musical interlude, he wowed the audience by continuously playing the drums with his left hand while alternating between the flute, the bottle, the didgeridoo, and the whistle on with his right!