Irish luck shines on INISH performance

In a flurry of color and sound, INISH took to CenterStage at the ’62 Center on Friday and Saturday night for vivid performances titled “Siombailí Éireann,” or “Symbols of Ireland,” in which the eight Irish step dancers, as well as accompanying musicians, singers and storytellers, united to deliver a presentation of Irish artistic expression.
Directed by Holly Silva, artistic director at the ’62 Center, the show saw its foundation in the histories and myths that surround Irish symbols including the shamrock, claddagh, celtic knots, the harp, spirals and animals as represented through art.
The night opened with a performance of “The Harp That Once Through Tara’s Halls” by Maggie Bye, Kathleen Higgins ’14 and Sarah Lyon ’13. Their gently swaying harp melodies were punctuated mid-song by a fog machine’s mist, which announced the triumphant arrival onstage of members of INISH, clad in military-style costumes and brandishing the flag – green with a gold harp – of the United Irishmen’s 18th-century revolutionary movement.
The dancers were accompanied by musicians who took the center of attention as the five members of INISH exited the stage with a proud flourish. The musicians transitioned into a more wistful melody, perched upon an alcove overlooking the CenterStage audience.
As the group’s music again morphed, this time back into a softer tune, the entire INISH company decked the stage for the first time of the night for a lyrical and fluid routine. The presentation by the entire company was complete in and of itself. The dancers both began and ended the piece draped across the floor in a semi-circle. In opening, each performer seemed to awaken her neighbor with the wave of an arm until all had sprouted into a spiraling floral design.
One thing was certain during these INISH routines: Each costume selection artfully paralleled both the score and the steps. For this particular number, the dancers donned ethereal attire in pastel heathers and rose pinks that perfectly complimented a presentation largely resembling some sort of playful pastoral game.
Vocal selections, including  “There Was A Lady,” performed by Meghan Rose Donnelly ’11, Annie Moriondo ’14 and Karlan Eberhart ’13, as well as a recitation of the Seán Mac Fheorais poem “An Tonn” performed by Kaitlin Butler ’11, all served as diverse interludes that provided commentary on Irish history and culture as well as complimented and further illustrated the dance performances.
One segment in particular, “At The Claddagh Pub,” was particularly useful and creative in constructing Ireland before the audience. First a video was shown, depicting performances from the 2005 Blas Festival at the University of Limerick in Ireland, many of which seemed to take place in a small pub-like setting. Soon the spotlight was on the performers – dancers, singers and instrumentalists alike – who sat gathered on the stage floor in a mock pub scene, virtually acting out a scene similar to those which the audience had just witnessed onscreen.
This segment featured several stellar performances, including a story about the famous claddagh symbol by Donnelly, “There Was A Lady,” and the following dance performance, “Rince Mor.”
The most all-encompassing, and therefore most artistic, performance of the night by far was “The Monk of Kells,” in which members of INISH, the musicians and the storytellers all put their best foot forward. The performers tapped into their collective creative repertoire to teach the audience about the animal art famous in the Book of Kells. Butler portrayed a monk from the monastery at Kells, her leaps and bounds with a feather pen in hand indicative of the art she was creating as each animal symbol was portrayed on the overhead screen. On cue, each “animal” – including a fish, dog, cat, bird, snake and stag – would then kick and leap her way onto the stage, often to the graceful rhythm of fitting musical accompaniment or a storyteller’s smooth narration. And of course, not breaking with tradition, the color and design of each dancer’s costume was conveniently close to those bright shades and stark lines of the animal symbols projected at the front of the theater.
The night ended on a colorful note as well. In the finale, each dancer appeared in a different brightly-colored dress, the entire group of eight collectively inventing a rainbow. While there was no pot of gold at the end of it, the iridescent downpour of glitter at the close of the show did cap off what could only be described as a golden performance.