Trinity Irish Dance Company: A celebration of percussive dance


After completing a month-long tour through Japan, the Trinity Irish Dance Company returns to a packed Auditorium Theatre for a one-time matinee performance on March 3rd. The company proves why they are one of the main innovators of progressive Irish dance.

Over 100 Irish dance students of all ages graced the stage for the preshow performance to showcase their various skills and love for the craft. With ages ranging from high school seniors to 1st-grade elementary students, the stage was a joyous celebration of learning. It felt appropriate for the next generation of dancers to share the stage with the professionals, an empowering moment underscoring how Irish dance is for everyone, yet its mastery requires a lifetime of dedication.

The preshow filled me with nostalgia for my first pair of tap shoes. Bought to channel my childhood desire to make noise, the stomping and jumping opened up a whole new world of sounds. Tapping. Gliding. Shuffling my feet until I understood the ground beneath me in a way that no other dance form could afford me. I was brought back to these feelings of discovering rhythm, weight and tone as I watched the students perform; an enchanting experience that made me further appreciate my relationship with dance.

The program itself was crafted into a complete and immersive world of percussive dance, blending contemporary and classical influences, presenting a diverse repertoire spanning half the company’s lifespan, consisting of 11 dance pieces, among them 3 premieres, interspersed with 4 musical interludes. Set to Celtic-driven music, presented wonderfully by the Trinity Irish Dance Company musicians — Jake James, Christopher Devlin, Brendan O’Shea, and Steven Rutledge — the company kicked off the St. Patrick's Day season with a true celebration of Irish dance and culture.

A stand-out among the performances was the world premiere of “P.O.V.,” a piece conceived and directed by Harrison McEldowney, which takes the innovative approach of attaching a camera to dancer Michael Fleck, giving the audience, quite literally, his point of view from the stage. A screen projected the live feed and gave a multi-viewing experience that I had never seen before.

Fleck, centering himself among his peers, got encircled, lifted, and spun around all while the camera projected his view to screen. Sometimes lying down on the floor himself with the camera pointed directly at the mass of flurrying feet, he gave the audience an up-close view of the impressive chorographical prowess and tapping mastery of the company artists. Despite moments of disorientation, the camera was able to capture each dancer's personality; a unique experience as the dancers fluttered past the camera, engaging with waves, smiles and other playful movements as they went.

Trinity Irish Dance Company member Ali Doughty; Photo by Lois Greenfield


In a truly endearing moment, Fleck also takes the camera backstage. The audience gets to see the all-too-real dancer's experience of running for their next cue. As Fleck traversed the back, we were welcomed with the view of the stagehands waving and cheering backstage. A truly heart-warming moment that reminded us of the communal effort required for such a complex program.

Another stand-out was the recent reset piece “Black Rose” originally choreographed in 2004 by artistic director Mark Howard. Utilizing the use of both soft-soled and hard-soled shoes, this piece truly captured all the best that Irish dance has to offer. Beginning with a booming monologue that ends with “we all matter; you matter,” 4 soft shoe dancers equipped with drumsticks grace the stage. They create their own rhythm with the clashing of wood; each tap starting slow and contained, then building into a louder polyrhythmic melody.

The energy and speed continued to surge as the entire company, armed with their own drumsticks and tap shoes, flooded the stage. Utilizing the different sounds created by each form — the rapid shuffling of tap shoes, the rhythmic knocking of wood, the soft reverberation from the soft shoes, and the harsh vocal cries from the dancers - they seamlessly build upon one another and create a cacophony of sound. With each crescendo, they amplified the intensity until a resounding shout and crack of wood reverberated throughout the auditorium, leaving the audience speechless and skin tingling with excitement.

A highlight was “The Dawn” performed by students of the Trinity Academy of Irish Dance, who will represent the United States at the World Championship of Irish Dance in Glasgow later this month. It was an impressive performance, with movement so precise and synchronized, it seemed as though there was a shared consciousness between the dancers. Their boundless energy was palpable as jumps propelled them off the stage like kangaroos and arms swung in blurs of green.

There were also special guest appearances from tap artist Star Dixon of M.A.D.D. Rhythms, All-Ireland champion flute and tin whistle player Larry Nugent and students from the Irish Music School of Chicago representing the future of traditional Irish music, each bringing their own unique flair to the program.

The Trinity Irish Dance Company held a one-day extravaganza at the Auditorium Theatre this past weekend that highlighted the very best in contemporary Irish dance and culture. Taking rhythmic and chorographic risks that continue to make the art form feel fresh and new. I'm sure the company will continue to inspire new audiences, as it did with me, as it pushes the art form to its limits.

For more information about Trinity Irish Dance Company and the event, visit or click the links below.