Ladies of the dance impress at INISH show

Twelve years since Riverdance debuted in Dublin, it is still the golden standard for Irish dance shows. INISH, the Irish dance and music group at the College, opened its fall show with a dance that was largely reminiscent of “Reel around the Sun,” the opening number from Riverdance.

Before a packed house at the ’62 Center on Friday night, 12 dancers filed solemnly onstage to the slow, steady beat of a drum. Their hard shoes hit the floor in unison and the sound echoed through CenterStage. Then with a quick transition, the dancers began a more spirited reel as the band at the side of the stage picked up a traditional Irish tune. The girls were quick and sharp and artistic director Holly Silva’s choreography, inspired by that of Riverdance stars Jean Butler and Colin Dunne, made for a powerful piece. The dancers moved from a strong line across the stage into various formations that made full use of the space.

The show, titled “Toran na dTonnta: Cogar [The Sound of the Waves: a Whisper],” included dance, instrumental music, vocal music and recitations of Irish writings. In their own ways, the pieces were meant to explore the influence of the sea on the Irish culture. The musicians began one of several music interludes after the first dance. Mandy O’Connor ’10 sang a pretty solo and, later on, Logan McCracken ’11 and Daniel Rosensweig ’08 performed an enchanting duet. But, for the most part, the band – including flutes, whistles, guitars, a banjo, an accordion and drums – sounded like accompaniment even when it was playing on its own and in the few instances when the Irish dancers came out to sing a song, the performance seemed forced and unconvincing. It would have been nice to see some more dancing – only five of the 14 performances included dance – because the dances were almost always spectacular.

In soft shoes for the second dance, a slip jig, the dancers were light on their feet. They leapt high and landed gracefully. It was a lovely performance.

Then guest choreographer Allison Fippinger arranged a simply stunning Scottish sword dance for the third dance piece. Although a Scottish dance was a bit out of place among the Irish ones, it reminded me of the Irish broom dances, in which dancers move and hop with a broom as a prop, and, given its strength, the Scottish dance merited inclusion. Five INISH dancers strode onstage, each with two swords crossed over their heads as INISH member Jenni Ewing ’10 played the bagpipes. As the bagpipes filled the space and tartan sashes adorned the general costume (long-sleeved shirts, vests and black skirts), the mood was set. The girls placed the probably-plastic swords on the floor and proceeded with a lively jig, stepping and hopping around and over the blades. The steps were interesting and the dancers stepped together. It was an impressive dance and was performed wonderfully.

Indeed, the dances were lovely, and I only wish that either the music interludes had been more lively and inspiring or the dancing had taken up more of the show. This performance was a work-in-progress show before the final show in March and I hope that next time there is a bit more dance from both the group as a whole and from soloists. There were a few exceptional dancers who shined on Friday evening – their kicks, their cuts and their leaps were higher and sharper than the rest. It would be such a treat to see what they can do on their own in a solo. I would see the show in March even if it were only a sharper version of this one, but I hope that next time INISH will feature the things that its members do best – dance.

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