StepDance can mean many things. At first, all of us immersed in Irish culture immediately think of Irish dancing. But step back, and you realize there’s more depth to these two simple words. And the Teelin Irish Dance Company is showing just that with their latest production “StepDance.”
“Irish dancing and Irish culture is more than one dimensional,” says Teelin Irish Dance Company’s Assistant Director, Joe Duffey. “It has so many different aspects.”
An evolution from their successful six-year run of “Portraits of Ireland,” Director Maureen (Berry) Gately, TCRG, and her company are not limiting themselves to traditional Irish dance moves. “StepDance,” which debuted to a sold-out house this past Saturday at the Weinberg Center for the Arts in Frederick, Maryland, incorporates all sorts of steps from a variety of dance forms, continuing to push the boundaries of even the most innovative Irish dance shows.
“Irish dancing as we know it has progressed so much since the dawn of time. Why not take that a step further?” Duffey says of the show’s cutting-edge artistry.
Using Irish dance as a solid base, the nearly two-hour show puts a theatrical spin on every performance. While there is no speaking, all dancers are required to have a high level of acting through stage placement and movements, all with one main goal: to find a connection with the audience.
“I think that’s something a lot of Irish dance shows lack, that audience connection,” says Duffey.
The audience is immediately grabbed within the first few seconds of the show’s opening number “Steam,” where dancers flash across the stage to the beat of a harmonica. Set in a train station, the number symbolizes both the act of leaving all expectations behind and the universal theme of endless traveling, jumping from one place to another…and jumping from one art form and dance to another.
“StepDance” has traditional Irish dance, ballet, clogging, and tap. There’s beatboxing and a slam poet reading. The stage is filled with common props that project an Irish identity, including traditional Irish dance school dresses. But there’s also everyday street attire and gorgeous costumes making their own statement with different fabrics, fits and textures.
Scenes transition with video clips, photos, quotes and live music, which includes traditional favorites like the accordion as well as a guitar and djembe African drum.
“You already have such a mixing of cultures and dancing [in shows], which we first saw with ‘Riverdance,’” Duffey explains, “But “StepDance” does even more than that. With a loose storyline, it leaves everything open to interpretation, allowing the audience to be creative with what they take away from watching it.”
“Traditional Irish dance is typically competitive in nature, but it should also be viewed as an art,” Duffey says of the company’s desire to produce such high-energy, innovative, envelope-pushing performances. “It’s something that people connect [to with] an emotion.”
So what’s next for Teelin? “’StepDance’ is pushing the boundaries, why not keep going with that?” says Duffey with his signature grin, “True art is never done. It’s a never-ending process.”
For more info on StepDance, click here