Irish dance group to perform Sunday

Posted: Thursday, March 02, 2006

The Trinity Irish Dance Co. has more in common with a ballet or modern dance company than production-oriented fare such as Riverdance or Lord of the Dance.

"We're not a production at all," said Deirdre Mahoney, associate artistic director, principal dancer and founding member. "They have producers and they design what they want. We're a dance company. All of our footwork is very traditional. We just maybe have a different way of presenting it."

The Chicago-based Trinity, a 16-year-old nonprofit that combines Irish dance with various cultural styles, will bring three musicians and 17 dancers (all between 18 and 28) to Juneau for a 7 p.m. show Sunday, March 5, at the Juneau-Douglas High School auditorium.

The dancers come from all over the United States, and one-third of the performers are founding members. Not all graduated from the 20-year-old Trinity Academy of Irish Dance in Chicago, and not all are Irish-American. The group includes girls with German and Ukrainian heritage. What connects them is that they're all championship-caliber competitors who have been Irish dancing since they were between the ages of 4 and 7.

what: trinity irish dance co.

when: 7 p.m. sunday, march 5

where: juneau-douglas high school auditorium

tickets: advance, $22 for adults, $18 for students and seniors; $2 more at the door. available at hearthside books, rainy day books, the observatory and the juneau arts and humanities council office, 206 n. franklin st.

workshops: a group of dancers will lead a master dance class at 4 p.m. saturday, march 4, at the juneau dance unlimited studio, fourth and seward streets. preregistration is $15 at the jahc office. the group's bagpipe player will teach a master music and history class at 4 p.m. saturday, march 4, at the elks' lodge. registration is also $15. participants should be 6 or older. call the arts council at 586-2787 for more information.

"All of the dancers have a say in what's going to be produced on-stage," Mahoney said. "We have a say in different choreographers we want to bring in, or collaborate with or different dance forms we want to meld. It's still very traditionally based. All of our dancers are at the championship level and they have to be. They show is very intricate, it's very athletic. Dancers have to have the ability and the versatility to cross over into other dance forms."

Trinity will lead a master dance class at 4 p.m. Saturday, March 4. Admission is $15 and preregistration is available at the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council office, 206 North Franklin St. Two to four company members, and perhaps one musician, will teach the basics of Irish dancing and jigging.

"A lot of my students who are young say, 'This is so hard,'" Mahoney said. "But after a couple months, they kind of get it. It's a very traditional step and anybody can pick it up. The beginning steps are not very difficult. Turn your foot up, lock your knees, keep your arms down, that's a little more difficult."

Sunday's show will include a few of the group's traditional numbers. "Johnny" was originally performed for Johnny Carson on "The Tonight Show." Another piece, "Step About," resembles an Irish party, with dancers trying to one-up each other.

"Black Rose," based loosely on Japanese taiko drumming, is one of the group's newest piece. Two works, "Current Event" and "Goddess," were choreographed by New York dancer Sean Curran. "Current" is a body-percussive piece, mixed with Irish dance. "Goddess" is imbued with an East Indian flavor.

"We try to do innovative work, and kind of push the boundaries and explore," Mahoney said. "I think it's important to notice and see the relationships between different cultures. In essence, every culture has been influenced by another."

"I was at a folk festival with our junior company, and there were a couple groups from Hungary, some from the Turkish side, some Greek influence," she said. "It was interesting that some of their guitar chords were very familiar to some of our guitar chords. When you get to be around 15 or more very traditional folk groups you can hear those sounds and see where the influences are coming from."

Trinity hasn't toured in Ireland for years. Their recent journeys have taken them to Guatemala, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Japan, Taiwan and other parts of Asia.

"There's a lot of interest in our company in Asia," Mahoney said. "I think the Japanese and the other Asian cultures are very intrigued by what we do, the discipline and mastery."

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