BY TAMMY SCILEPPI
Where there are graceful, lightning-fast dancers, you’re bound to hear loud thunder — ‘Celtic Thunder,’ that is.
Experience vibrant dance moves and awe-inspiring performances, when Trinity Irish Dance Company takes Queens Theatre’s Mainstage by storm next weekend.
Under the direction of Mark Howard, Trinity (TIDC) has been dazzling audiences locally and abroad for decades. And, their progressive sensibility goes beyond those inventive, unexpected and perfectly synched numbers, for they celebrate and embrace female empowerment in a big way. That sassy attitude is reflected in the female dancers’ non-traditional costumes and powerful, complex routines.
“TIDC is reclaiming Irish dance from the commercial circus it can sometimes be, presenting art-driven work that levels the dance floor and engages in the fight for gender equity through movement,” said Associate Artistic Director Chelsea Hoy.
“Since our inception in 1990, we have always primarily been a female company that celebrates the strength of our women through intentional costuming, casting and choreography. Our diverse body of work breaks down stereotypical gender roles, and our females lay down aggressive virtuosic rhythms. Our women are on the front lines of bringing the thunder,” she added.
Before Riverdance and Lord of the Dance, there was Trinity.
Howard was a quiet revolutionary. He conjured up a progressive version of Irish dance that’s infused with tinges of ballet, hints of Spanish and modern, along with rhythmic tap. And it wasn’t long before another Irish dance champion, Michael Flatley — who would become Riverdance’s star — took notice.
To his surprise and dismay, Howard would discover curious similarities between Riverdance performances (like “Distant Thunder”) and those innovative, urban-inspired numbers that he created for Trinity (like “Celtic Thunder”). But he was a good sport about it and saw his competitors’ successes as a great opportunity for his own company. As Irish step-dancing grew in popularity and achieved widespread appeal with diverse audiences, his troupe flourished as well.
Eventually, TIDC would wow viewers when they appeared on “Good Morning America,” “Conan” and “Oprah.” They had a dozen performances on “The Tonight Show.”
And Trinity continues to shake things up.
“Unfortunately, women performing hard-driving virtuosic percussion is not the norm in the world of Irish dance, which has been consumed by a slew of commercial productions that all follow a similar formula — chorus lines of dancers with a male savior dominating the spotlight and bringing the noise out front,” Hoy said.
“TIDC is fighting and often winning the battle to change the dialogue within our art form, bringing it closer to its roots and celebrating its raw percussive power — on equal footing. Our work combats the clear objectification of women that occurs in some of these shows, which include dances with names such as the ‘Strip Jig.’”
A new era in Irish dance
In TIDC, females not only get to make noise, they are expected to make noise, Hoy insists.
“We share this power with international audiences from New York to Japan — 8-year-olds and 80-year-olds alike,” she said.
“While our mission is poignant within our own art form, the message extends far beyond the realm of Irish dancing. It is our hope that women walk away from a TIDC performance inspired by the confidence and strength we emit from the stage and empowered to amplify their own voices, and everyone leaves inspired to level the playing field in their own worlds,” Hoy added.
For tickets to the March 7 (2 p.m.) and March 8 (3 p.m.) performances, visit queenstheatre.secure.force.com/ticket/#/events/a0S2E00000uS1K8UAK.