Darrah Carr Dance Company shines in New York

Published Wednesday, November 18, 2009, 3:11 PM

The Darrah Carr Dance Company completed another New York season with their weekend performances at the Irish Arts Center this past Sunday.

The ModERIN concept developed by founder Darrah Carr over a decade ago successfully answers the questions in its performances about life after "Riverdance" or the competitive feisianna world for dancers who find dance as an art form too expressive to forego as the years roll on.

The Ohio native Carr started with a vision to intersect the polar opposites of modern dance movement with Irish traditional stepdancing soon after arriving in New York City to continue her dance studies and training.

With the huge success of shows like "Riverdance" and "Lord of the Dance" creating a cadre of professionals who have matured as dancers while widening the audiences for greater appreciation of the Irish dance form and skills, greater possibilities for creative crossover became a more viable option.

As more Irish dancers looked for more liberating movement for their limbs and torso, the crossroads towards modern dance forms was moving in a direction that the innovative Carr was heading anyway, and the timing seemed perfect.

The weekend show in the Donaghy Theatre provided well-paced entertainment and choreography from the Carr Dance Company repertoire, and also a routine called “On the Six” choreographed by Boston native Sean Curran some years ago for the Trinity Dance Company in Chicago and ably reproduced here under his co-direction with Carr.

Six of the featured dancers in this show -- Chris Armstrong, Carr, Joanna Barry Connolly, Timothy Kachka, Ryan McCarthy and Melissa Padham -- brought the swing music of Artie Shaw to life, melding Irish footwork with the grace and movement of the lively dance era born in the U.S. adorned in colorful costumes designed by Ms. Connolly.

Especially noteworthy also was an excerpt from "The Ballad of Eileen Pink & James Gray" (music by Mark Simos) as a beguiling pas de deux by Timothy Kochka (New Jersey based dancer with the Fidelma Davis Academy) and Melissa Padham (from Warwick, New York) whose work shined all night.

Arrayed in costume befitting a hoe-down motif, the pair danced in exuberant fashion as in a square dance before segueing into a romantic finish to a sensuous country waltz as the lights dimmed on the couple.

The spotlight and stage alternated with plenty of modern choreography and percussive Irish steps and rhythms that have become Carr’s hallmark, and also a frequent showcase for Irish stepdancer and teacher Niall O’Leary, who also took up the spoons and piano accordion as well.

Along with Kochka (his hang time on leaps was amazing though hazardous with theater lights hanging low as well), Ryan McCarthy and Chris Armstrong gave a strong male presence to go with the female dancers led by Carr, Padham, Connolly and Louise Corrigan, Caitlin McNeill and Alina Grzegorzeski.

Also important to the production were musicians Shane O’Sullivan on guitar and vocals and flutist Christel Rice, who provided musical interludes as well as live music for dancing by Carr, O’Leary and Corrigan.

The show finished in rousing fashion as the company of 10 performed a stepdancing suite to the music of Liam Bradley with all the percussive force that we have grown used to seeing with an Irish chorus line as eponymous as "Riverdance" or the Rockettes.

Hats off to Carr for providing a well choreographed program to highlight her company, and also tackling the challenges that the small, low stage of the Donaghy Theater presents for her productions and capabilities of her dancers. After all, flexibility is a requisite for dancers and artistic directors.

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