Performing Arts: Dance
October 4, 2022
Sean Curran Dance Company and Darrah Carr Dance paid homage to the age-old Céili, “a social gathering with traditional Irish or Scottish music, dancing, and storytelling” at the Irish Arts Center. In their hourlong work, a community of eighteen talented dancers showcased dynamic Irish step-dances, ballet, tap, and contemporary modern dance. Live music composed, arranged, and executed by Dana Lyn playing fiddle and Kyle Sanna on guitar, expressed Céili’s soul and essence.

An overture of mournful music introduced the piece before eight dancers, in varying costumes by Amanda K. Rigger of grey skirts, kilts, and pantsuits entered on diagonals that shifted and flowed into circling duets of flying Irish steps: flexed foot hops and skips, walking, kicks, lunges… interlacing into quartets and sextets as the tempo accelerated, enlivening the social interactions on stage.

One couldn’t take eyes off of the Tony-Award winning star of Billy Elliot, Trent Kowalik, dancing a vigorous step-dance solo in hard shoes; or Benjamin Freedman and Jack Blackman, performing an exquisitely soft adagio duet to a slow air, “After Aughrim,” evoking feelings of love, companionship, listening, sharing.

Céili, never lost momentum; it progressed and changed… as it continued to add or subtract community: a quartet, a solo, a duet, sextet, and more. Contributing to the experience was the lighting by Ammanda K. Rigger, plus set and visual design by Mark Randall.

An addition, Box Tops, choreographed by Tigger Benford and Martha Partridge in 1985, was a crowd pleaser! Two dancers facing each other atop two wooden boxes, sustained a fast tempo and unrelenting body percussion dance of claps and stomps.

Duets continued, with one dancer accompanying the other playing percussive spoons; and another using brooms to “brush” the floor with sound.

The finale, with eighteen on stage, nine sitting symmetrically across from the other nine on benches, clapping and stomping, accompanied dancers accumulating in the center. Delightfully, Curran and Carr, in cameo appearances, wove themselves in and around the entire group, exciting the audience to its feet with exuberant applause. As in the overture, mournful music now signaled an ending, with trio groups exiting on both sides of the stage, leaving the two choreographers to bow in traditional Irish folk dance style.

Curran and Carr’s effort, talent, and knowledge of the forms summoned up the spirit of dance and its necessity in our lives. Céili, brought together a community of audience and performers to merge and reunite after two years of pandemic deep sleep. Afterwards, the audience congregated, lingering to congratulate and share the heartfelt warmth this dance inspired.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Mary Seidman

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