New film explores 2,000 year evolution of Irish dancing


Two years ago next week, the advance of Covid-19 around the world managed to stop the phenomenon known as Riverdance from its tracks at New York’s Radio City Music Hall during its 25th anniversary tour.

When the curtain fell midweek on one of its most high-profile engagements since its inception at the Eurovision debut in 1994 and the ensuing pandemic again brought all public Irish dancing to a halt due to restrictions on gatherings for this purpose.

But as we have seen, the virtual world has become our eyes and ears for the creative engagement of artists and storytellers who contact us through the video lens to enlighten and entertain us. And one of those video documentaries, produced in Ireland amid the pandemic, shone a light on the world of Irish dancing waiting to be told. The film debuted on RTE in December and will soon hit theaters here via PBS.

Ruán Magan, a veteran filmmaker, director and producer from Dublin, reflected seven years ago on how Irish dancing had exploded across the world since the emergence of Riverdance, Lord of the Dance and other dance shows mega who gave birth to dance schools in no less than 60 countries. And millions of people have either paid to see these shows or watched them on television, regardless of their national origin.

His videography is called The Story of Irish Dance: Steps of Freedom, and it is a vividly told story of how Irish dancing has been expressed on the island dating back 2,000 years ago in various narratives. to the present day where there is so much more known thanks to the aforementioned contemporary shows.

Blending beautiful scenery and localities that have inspired solo and group dancing and dance masters throughout Ireland’s history in a popular environment makes it visually captivating. The rich array of skilled practitioners teaching or presenting Irish culture offering skillfully edited contextual commentary to convey the storyline provides rich and useful information to better understand the significance of Irish dancing in our cultural heritage.

Besides a valuable timeline and reference points on changes in Irish society and development mainly from the 18th century through colonialism, famine, the nationalist movement, independence and the Gaelic League, the domination of the From the Catholic Church, waves of immigration, and finally the emergence of a younger, more educated population that fueled the Celtic Tiger, we see the continuum of Irish dancing that hasn’t been so well articulated before.

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While Riverdance-type performances made the aspect of percussive dancing into our consciousness, we learned that the characteristic steps danced to traditional Irish folk music go back much further, particularly to the crucible of 19th century America. century, especially among the Africans and the Irish who were brought together against their will but managed to develop a creative kinship between Irish stepping and tap dancing.

It’s a riveting, well-told movie that will be worth watching this month on PBS outlets this holiday season.

But as usual, in the month of March, such programming is often plagued with breakdowns in commitment, so your attention span will be tested along with your wallet. Here are the New York area viewing dates and check your local listings: WNJN (New Jersey) March 6-12; WLIW (Long Island) March 13, 18 and 19; WNET-13 (New York) March 17, 19 and 20.


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