|Noctu at the Irish Rep in New York|
I rarely used the overused word but here it is, "mesmerizing." It was so unexpected because I didn't know what to expect. Noctú, an Irish word that you are going to have to look up, is an Irish dance group in New York as part of the Imagine Ireland series. They had their opening last night at the Irish Repertory Theater.
I might not have caught it if it was anywhere else, but I'm rarely disappointed by the Irish Rep and besides, it was a free ticket.
I didn't look at the program or read about Noctú so I was expecting something along traditional lines. This left me little wondering at first – the dancers were dressed as if for volleyball game at the beach or an aerobics class and indeed, I later discovered, the first dance is called "Warmup."
The stage is small at the Irish Rep and allows for great intimacy.
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Sitting four rows back the intensity of the performances (an unbelievable 17 dances by 16 dancers) left me exhausted and elated and almost weak from emotion. I was taken along as the dancers turned the world of Irish dance upside down. I was taken inside the world of Irish dance -- treated to the slurs flung at Irish male dancers, "Faggot, "Pussy."
"You have to be more macho, play a macho sport, it's best to go to school somewhere far away," a male dancer laments, while a female dancer emotes that she knows she's "shite" but she loves to dance, her way, and "really while the others are very good but they are all the same."
The different dances are a comment on the strictures of Irish dance -- yet the tradition of Irish dance is honored too -- throughout. In "Shadow Dolls," the female ensemble wears white dresses and white masks emphasizing the norm in the Irish dance world – keeping it inside the box. The dancers move as one, a corps de ballet, but this is no ballet, it's hard shoe and it's magnificent.
This is no Riverdance, this is a new thing, a new departure that is rooted in traditional Irish dance but pushes the boundaries to the limit and towards the end descends, in piece entitled "Underworld" to an almost violent war dance complete with body paint, it's tribal that morphs into a sort of beach party.
I am not an expert on dance, so I know not of what I write, but I found myself so moved by the experience that I had to try and express it. Go and see for yourself. Noctú is at the Irish Rep (132 West 22nd Street) until October 2nd. Hopefully, some wise producer will come along and put it on Broadway.
The talent, the beauty, the stamina, the love of dance, all shine through. Noctú pays homage to Irish dance and tradition and yet it is its own new thing. And it's beautiful.