Trinity Irish Dance Company performed an infectious program at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center on Monday night.
Irish step dancing has a mysterious hold on an audience. It’s like a Celtic myth, alluring, but at the same time unfathomable.
It is one-part hypnotic rhythms, hammered out by dancers’ feet, mixed with lightness, triggered by the dancers’ hovering bounces. It’s beautiful thing.
It is no wonder then that Irish step dancing attracts dance devotees as much as those who never considered walking into a theater for concert dance. That’s why Trinity Irish Dance Company had few problems packing people into the Saratoga Performing Arts Center on a Monday night for an enchanted evening of music and dance.
The Chicago-based company, led by Irish dance champion Mark Howard, offered a generous program that shows that dance can be more than big curly wigs and sequined costumes and more than lilt, cadence and speed. It can be dramatic and playful too.
The ensemble of 20 with a four-man band opened with the powerful “Soles.” Choreographed by Howard, it hit all the right percussive notes with dancers, dressed in black, standing in their own spotlights and hitting the boards hard with their fleet and precise footwork. There was no need for music – just the sounds of the feet and the flash of bodies shooting up and down – was enough to sweep the audience into the night.
The variety of choreography that followed was astonishing. The dancers were full-bodied in such dances as the “Black Rose,” where they clattered out rhythms with sticks and in “Communion” where the dancers pounded out the beat with their hands on their legs and torsos. Of course, they accentuated it all with their intricate and synchronized traditional footwork.
Sean Curran’s “Curran Event” was especially enjoyable. Here, the female dancers showed off their hearty talents in a jaunty cavort. Wearing mini-skirt kilts and soft shoes, they skipped and tiptoed through an infectious dance to spirited music by Kila and then topped it off with a boisterous hard-shoe tap battle.
Trinity’s only disappointment was there was few men – only two. While mostly, they blended in with the Colleens, they stood out for their attack and jump height when they launched themselves off the floor.
For the most part, the music was performed by the company’s own band led by guitarist and composer Brendan O’Shea. The quartet provided the necessary interludes for costume changes and moments of quiet contemplation with such original tunes such as “Storm” and some buoyant moments too with O’Shea’s “The Reel Thing.”
They ensemble ended with the chorus line of dancers, a look and sound that no audience can resist.
Howard once said that he wanted Irish dance to be more than competitive. He wanted it to matter. I think it does and to a lot of people at that.