The Soraya crowd was energized and eager to partake in an experience of old and new Irish dance, culture, traditions and music. Based in Chicago, Illinois, the Trinity Irish Dance Company (TIDC) mixes an assortment of different dance forms; all while incorporating tap tempos with Irish toe stands flare. In a first ever seen premier, TIDC delivered a collaborative energetic song, word, and dance show called A Very Irish Christmas. The performance was family friendly with onstage interactions between the artists and the audience taking place, making it a festive opening to the December holiday season. The dancers’ beat work was extraordinary, the visualizations were cinematic, and the stories with music entertaining. It was “A Very Irish Christmas” in Los Angeles as the Trinity Irish Dance Company was showcased in rhythms and rhymes in a Christmas light.
One center stage light glistened throughout the entire production lending cohesiveness to the many episodic portions. There were words written by John B. Keane, spoken by Roy Arbuckle and original stories voiced by the presenting musicians.
The Christmas carol Silent Night began the show and as the curtain turned from blue to black, opening to reveal strong standing dancers in basic black top and bike shorts joined by four live musicians situated behind them.
The opening piece, Chapter One: Silent Nights, vigorously built up a good cheer clapping from the audience. Founder and Artistic Director Mark Howard created a short, fast and furious segment, during which the lighting director Haley Burdette and lighting designer Gavin Jellison were spot on in direction and cues. Their talents flawlessly created a picturesque atmosphere throughout the show. The costumes designed by Cathy Fitzmaurice were simple black outfits which aided in showcasing the movement. The many interludes included the musicians talking toward the crowd and composer/guitarist/vocalist Brendan O’Shea came across as sincere, personable, and charismatic while speaking about what Christmas is like in his homeland Ireland. All-Ireland fiddle champion Jake James charmed the people with amusing anecdotes and astonishing fiddle playing.
Chapter Two: The Banshees and a Prayer was a striking partnership of light and sound by Mark Howard. This sector was so precise and superbly rehearsed that the nine dancers were in an incredibly unified cluster of sound and spotlights. This movement grabbed my attention because it was exquisitely executed with crisscrossing moments with the company remarkable at staying centered in their first and prospective spotlights. The fast footwork increased in the second part and this intensity sounded like a unified stallion of horses darting across the stage.
In the interim of non-dancing, a song tribute to the late Sinéad O’Connor played and a Christmas poem was heard. The musicians, including percussionist Steven Rutledge, gave a heartfelt dedication.
Then twelve smiling ladies in red dresses introduced the uplifting Chapter Three: The Dawn of Christmas. It went from straight lines to circles and ponytail flips, all elements that encompassed more of what traditional Irish dancing segments showcase. The beautiful costumes, with just the right red color for the season, were designed by Shamrock Stitchery. During this segment, young dancers took center stage. The TIDC Company’s mission is to empower young people to join them on stage from local Irish dance schools. One or two student dancers are selected from each school and the Los Angeles area. These adorable young students were a mix of different ages. The organizations represented were McNulty Irish Dance, Powers Irish Dance, Cleary Irish Dance, Celtic Irish Dance Academy, Malloy Irish Dance, and the Thistle School of Irish Dance.
Chapter Four: Hunting for the Wren started off as an interesting pattern of sticks and stomping. In the beginning, choreographer Mark Howard presented a continuous marching sound as the dancers represented a tribal vibe wearing feathers on their chest and legs. The lights flickered toward the end as the performers sped up and the tempo became rigorous, intense, and exciting.
In another fragment of Hunting for the Wren, musician Jake James brought out the fiddle for two solos followed by a duet featuring the lovely and suave Ali Doughty and a gallant Patrick Grant who swirled off numerous turns and twists in their candy cane scarfs. These two were smooth, collected, and well paired. The costumes, designed by Cathy Fitzmaurice, were well suited for every section.
The next piece with blue, green, and black dresses was a compilation of step and hand movements. It was an exciting visual filled with voices and limb gestures that had a component of the viral Cups song by Anna Kendrick. The continuing choreography by Mark Howard showcased dancers performing silent footwork with beats, a violin musical excerpt, hitting of the chest, and small hops in different formations. During the progression of snow falling on stage came a quiet sustained beat reminiscence of the quiet section in Michael Jackson’s video “Smooth Criminal”. This movement provided a prominent and marvelous ending.
Following intermission there was a mythical fairy Irish story introduced by vocalist Brendan O’Shea that led into Chapter Five: The Fairies with additional choreography by Michelle Dorrance and Melinda Sullivan. It led with a blue shiny spandex pant and athletic armbands by a strong and striking Chelea Hoy. The piece was an interesting mix of women in pants and men in purple, yellow, orange, and red skirts performing very fast footwork. This wonderful costume pairing and color choices was devised by Cathy Fitzmaurice and Kristine Fatchet. Another standout out in this piece was Francisco Lemus who, aided by his strong stage presence, had a natural sense of connecting with the audience. All the dancers wore their personalities collectively in this work and it highlighted their skillful talents.
Lastly, Chapter Six: Little Christmas was a rock song drill team, stiff section of stepping and clapping with jazz snaps. There was an essence of Janet Jackson’s rhythm nation video. The costumes, however, were a light uniformed ombré color of red, orange, and yellow crisscrosses by costume designer Cathy Fitzmaurice with additional choreography by Chelsea Hoy. Then, enhanced by a disco ball, the drums came in as performers executed hip movements. There were arms behind the body, foot flicks and superb down beats offering up a wonderful display of control and enjoyment. The finale included old school plaid skirts, knee high socks, and ladies walking on their toes in drill squad style – all crossing the stage in a parade of uniformity.
The Trinity Dance Company has been around since 1990 and is a revolutionary promoter of innovation in the Irish Dance world. They really packed it all in although one missing element were larger stag leaps generally a nice highlight in Irish dancing. The performance was indeed a marvel of rigorous artistic concepts and expression that accumulated a melancholy mix of emotions, merry joyfulness, and mystic somberness, executed with outstanding rigorous technical work. A Very Irish Christmas was an energized book of stories, dancing, and ideas that make the Holidays more thought-provoking to watch.
To learn more about the Trinity Irish Dance Company, please visit their website.
For more information about The Soraya, please visit their website.
Written by Alice Alyse for LA Dance Chronicle.
Featured image: Trinity Irish Dance Company – A Very Irish Christmas – Photo by Luis Luque/Luque Photography.