The visitors represent the pick of contemporary Irish dance, theater and traditional music. Their performances are in modern and established genres, including for instance a song cycle by and about Irish gay men.
This is the third year for the cultural showcase to come to New York, and despite cutbacks in the budget the artistic delegation is bigger than ever. Culture Ireland, set up in 2005, is the state agency responsible for the promotion of Irish arts. When the Irish government began scaling back spending in reponse to the financial crisis earlier this year, many feared that the arts would be the first to suffer.
But that has not been the case so far. “The Irish government are making a huge investment in New York,” said Nik Quaife, a publicist working with Culture Ireland. “They recognize the value of New York.”
Many of the performances have already met with acclaim in Ireland and Britain. Elaine Murphy’s “Little Gem” is a play exploring the relationships between three women in a family. A review in the Guardian newspaper compared it to "a box of chocolates, which, when opened, reveals something moreish yet bittersweet – and often salty and down-to-earth.” Amongst the musicians to visit are the experimental singer Iarla Ó Lionáird who sings “sean nos” (“old style,” unaccompanied song) and whose work has twice had him nominated for Grammy Awards.
But the thing to really watch out for is contemporary dance, says Quaife, who points out that this is the first time modern dance has been part of the Culture Ireland menu. A radical contemporary dance group from Limerick called Daghdha make up part of the dance fireworks, and the showcase also has work by choreographic innovator Fearghis Ó Conchúir and the Dublin-based dance company, Rex Levitates.
Eugene Downes, CEO of Culture Ireland, said in a press release: "The outstanding performing artists and companies we are showcasing in New York are great ambassadors for creative Ireland and have ambitious plans for US touring, collaboration and co-production.”
He added “Irish culture has a unique resonance in America, and we aim to enhance that energy for the future."
The Irish cultural showcase is in New York from January 8th to 11th 2010.
For more information see www.cultureireland.gov.ie