In an annual performance that fell just before St. Patrick’s Day, INISH delivered its spring show titled “In Anim An Ghrá” (“In the Name of Love”) on Friday and Saturday on the CenterStage of the ’62 Center for Theatre and Dance.
Directed by Holly Silva and John Sauer, artistic director and music director at the ’62 Center, respectively, last weekend’s performance showcased representations of love through dance, song, poetry and storytelling.
The first number, “Cliffs,” exemplified traditional Irish step dancing and introduced the dance group to the audience. Each of the eight dancers linked his or her individual emotion and flair with that of the group and of the guiding tone of the musical pieces, “Harvest Home” and “The Boys of Bluehill,” for a gentle yet lively and upbeat set.
The dancers then left the stage to musician Bruce Wheat, who performed “On Raglan Road.” The song was inspired by a poem of the same name, written by the well-known Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh, who was inspired to write the piece after meeting a young woman on Raglan Road in Dublin, where he lived at the time. “On Raglan Road” subtly nudged the evening’s performance into the storytelling genre, setting the tone and precedent for a night of shared narratives.
When the dancers took to the stage again for “The Women Who Loved Cú Chulainn,” each portrayed a specific character in a plot that followed a mythological love affair: Ethan Borre ’15 played Cú Chulainn; Carlyn Hansen-Decelles ’12 played his wife Emer; high school student Cassie Peltier portrayed his first love Aoife; Lauren McDonald ’12 played Eithne InguDoba, his love of many years; and Elissa Hult ’15 took on the role of Fand, a goddess lover who cast her spell on Cú Chulainn. The choreography of this piece was artfully matched with the dramatic plot, which revolved around Borre’s character, a man of many lovers.
In “The Seisiún” (“The Session”), the performers brought the authentic culture of an Irish pub to the stage. In this segment, several musicians were seated around a table. When one began a tune, the others would join in. The audience was encouraged to join the tune as well. In fact, the participatory mood of the evening was probably the most engaging aspect of the show: Not only did the company and directors succeed in forging a bond between the musicians, dancers, storytellers and the audience, but also one between the tradition of old Ireland and its celebrants today.
After a 10-minute intermission, the second half of “In Anim An Ghrá” focused largely on Irish identity and patriotism, opening with “A Song for Ireland,” performed by local artist Mark Maniak and accompanying musicians. The performance was marked by copious descriptions of Ireland’s features and landscape. Images of verdant Irish hillsides and valleys were projected onto an overhead screen in the front of the room, and performances in this segment bore titles like “The Growing Season” and “The Harvest.” Karlan Eberhardt ’13 delivered a stunning vocal rendition of “Fields of Gold” supported by complementary background music. Spurred on by the accompanying musicians, the dancers added a playful yet ethereal vibe to their jig for “The Harvest,” in which McDonald portrayed Mother Earth.
Storytelling held a prominent place in the performance, but what made “In Anim An Ghrá” special in its own right was more subtle. The show served not only to entertain and educate its audience about Irish culture by simply presenting portions of it, but the performers and the show as a whole excelled at immersing viewers in the Irish experience. From the overhead images of Ireland’s beauty to the edifying descriptions in the program to the quaint, candid depiction of the jovial Irish tavern, Ireland came to life on CenterStage this weekend.
Addition reporting by Allen Davis ’14