Editor's Note: For more information on Trinity Irish Dance read this comprehensive and picture-rich preview by Picture this Post writer Alexis Bugajski-- "Trinity Irish Dance Company Profile – Contemporary Irish Dance with Traditional Roots".
The Auditorium Theatre curtains rise. Each dancer inhabits their own pool of light. Dressed in all black skirts and high necked tops, black bands wrapped around their arms, legs, and necks, the dancers look sharp, strong, and ready.
With their hard-soled shoes on, we then hear the 20 dancers unified by complex rhythms and driven by the TIDC Band musicians behind them through this first militant, powerhouse of a piece, Soles.
Trinity Irish Dance Company's precision pierces the Auditorium Theatre air, the silence just as powerful as the sounds.
The pieces blended music and dance seamlessly as musicians would come forward from their posts upstage in the middle of a dance piece. In Drunken Sailor, soloists Paige Turilli, Ali Doughty (both donned in more traditional style dresses, sparkling bright white with an orange flame design running down the back), Michael Fleck, and Aaron Wolf (in all black pants and shirts) grace the stage at different points, and fiddle prodigy Jake James slid right in between the first two to show us what he’s got. He shredded that fiddle--and then started to dance! It was clear who this man is--rhythm lives in his soul.
This show was centered around precise, powerful percussion--embodied physically and with literal percussion instruments. Jake James rattled away on a small hand drum in the first piece, and another percussionist wails on the 120 year old Irish Lambeg drum during Black Rose. This piece also features the dancers using drumsticks hidden in the backs of their costumes against the floor and each other’s sticks. Kneeling on the floor beside the Lambeg, they play in exact unison. As the program notes, it is “A commanding full ensemble piece that begins from a whisper to a scream.”
A piece later on in the show, Communion, performed by all women, utilized their costume to amplify their body percussion. Their dresses had leather parts at the chest and at the hips, so that when the dancers would hit--or even brush--these parts, the sound was louder. And with the help of stage mics, even patrons in the second balcony could definitely hear what these performers were communicating. Tethered together by the rhythms and the dynamic range of sound, these performers were connected from beginning to end. Whether they were making sound or not, they had to listen to each other even if they were on opposite sides of the stage.
We see the soloist at the end surrounded by her fellow dancers in a circle at center stage, the lights closing in on her as she softly percusses her body, and the dancers around her respond with other sounds and movements. These eventually fade away, the spotlight on the soloist in the center. She captivates us with her slight sounds, and gradual silence. We are left with this image, and perhaps a feeling deep inside of the beauty and power of sheer human connection. Despite this piece’s obvious softness, we are blown away by its evident power.
Power and precision do not always need to be loud and outgoing. Sometimes, the quietest sound has the most impact.
After intermission, we see how Mark Howard and his company are pushing Irish dance into the contemporary realm. Push, danced by Aaron Wolf, Chesea Hoy, Ali Doughty, and Michael Fleck, shows the female dancers in black leggings and a tank top, and the male dancers in black skirts and high-necked tank tops, vastly defying the traditional costumes for each gender. This piece had a playful feel to it, as the dancers loosen up on stage, perhaps including more improvisation as they feed off of each other’s energies.
Curran Event, danced by all female performers, has the dancers dressed in black tops and plaid skirts, hair styles all different, too, allowing the performers to have their own personal styles. Led by Maggie Nowakowski, the women take the stage and strut their stuff. At one point they are all lined up across the stage, performing intricate footwork with some hip shakes and shoulder rolls sprinkled here and there. Their moves ripple down the line and eventually exit the stage, except for Maggie, standing strong in the center with a fist in the air.
Brendan O’Shea, guitarist from the TIDC band, walks to the front of the stage and tells us the immigration story of Mickey Howard, artistic director Mark Howard’s father, from Ireland in search of a better life. He then begins the song Mull of Kintyre, and encourages the audience to sing along. And what would a Trinity Irish Dance Company show be without the 20 live bagpipe players? The house lights come up and the Shannon Rovers help finish out the song.
A disco ball revolves above the stage and the dancers take a bow toward the musicians, and eventually turn around and bow to the audience. Michael Jackson’s Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough plays as the dancers take individual solos and bows all about the stage. As they form a line and take one final bow, we are left knowing that Irish dance is rooted in tradition while existing in the modern world. Power, precision, and connection unify this company.
Carlyann Campione, Courtney D’Angelo, Ali Doughty, Annie Doyle, Michael Fleck, Lydia Fredrick, Anna Gorman, Erin Gentile, Erin Hayes, MacKenzie Holland, Chelsea Hoy, Ashley Kusserow, Martina Lee, Renae Marshall, Sierra McNall, Sydney Niewiedzial, Maggie Nowakowski, Paige Turilli, Aaron Wolf, Marissa Wurster
Musicians (TIDC Band):
Jake James, Christopher Kulwin, Steven Rutledge, Brendan O’Shea
For more information on Trinity Irish Dance Company, visit the Trinity Irish Dance Company website.
For more information on the Shannon Rovers, visit the Shannon Rovers website.
For more information on the Auditorium Theatre, visit the Auditorium Theatre website.
Photos by Lois Greenfield.
Read more stories by Sarah Stearn and other dancers and choreographers in the Picture This Post Round-Up, “Choreographers’ Eyes - Dancers Explain Dance”. Watch this video preview of the story here—
Sarah Stearn, a native of Chicago, is a dancer and videographer. She has recently graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a BFA in Dance, and is excited to be back in the city. Currently, she works with Tuli Bera as an administrator for J e l l o Performance Series.