Performing Arts: Dance
November 14, 2015
The Irish Arts Center/NYC hosted a presentation of Darrah Carr Dance with Tara O’Grady & her Black Velvet Band. Founded in 1972 in its far west location, the Irish Arts Center has a small stage with the audience sitting at a rake so limited that the sight of the dancers’ feet is minimal. But Carr’s program got around that easily by getting her accomplished dancers to throw their legs to the rafters and/or right under their bottoms in classic Irish “Birdies.” Only with Mary Kate Sheehan’s solo, arguably the strongest in the evening, and the finale, “Step Dance Suite,”performed with ten dancers, to “Go Lassie Go” by Francis McPeake, did we get an uninterrupted rush of Irish step dance tradition. The engaging Niall O’Leary made brief appearances with his delightful spoon playing, a duet with his long-time partner Carr and the finale, “Step Dance Suite.” One yearned for more of him.

The chance to experience live music and dance is always a treat; the pairing of O’Grady, a New York native with a southern drawl and a fetchin’ forties look and a wonderful voice, with Toledo, Ohio born Carr is a natural. Both bow to their Irish roots, while leaning more towards American artistic role models (Billie Holiday for O’Grady). According to Ailbhe Jordan writing in Irish Echo, January, 2006, “Prior to the Riverdance phenomenon, few would have thought it possible to make a career out of Irish dancing. The notion of giving traditional Irish step dancing a modern edge was unimaginable. And yet, even before Riverdance (1994) exploded onto the world stage, one dancer (Darrah Carr) had done both.”

Sean Curran, who has collaborated with Carr six times before, choreographed “On The Six” to the big band sound of Artie Shaw. Designed for three couples, his dance made you feel the gap between the post-World War exuberance and today’s cautious detachment, but also the puzzling contrast between the stiff upper body and arms of the Irish tradition with the loose freedom of swing. The fact that this company easily could do both well is a testament to Carr’s exploration of combining other dance forms with Irish step dancing.

The dancers included Carr, Timothy Kochka, Trent Kowalik, Jonathan Matthews, Caitlin McNeil, Laura Neese, O'Leary, Melissa Padham-MAASS and Sheehan. Of the musicians : Adrian Cunningham, Michael Howell, David Shaich, Cunningham is particularly outstanding. Originally from Sydney, Australia, this fellow plays saxophone and clarinet with such feeling and spontaneity that he almost stole the show.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers

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