The Boston College Irish Dance Group (BCID) was able to perform their annual spring show at the university’s Robsham Theater Arts Center just before Covid’s 2020 shutdown, but weren’t so lucky this year because pandemic restrictions. The student troop therefore set up a virtual showcase, “Illuminate”, which it posted on its YouTube channel in May.
The nearly hour-long video features traditional, contemporary and hybrid dance numbers choreographed by nearly two dozen BCID members, including their longtime staple “Shipping Up to Boston,” to the song Dropkick Murphys. Most of the performances were recorded in an auditorium / multipurpose room with a single stationary camera, others on the Robsham stage (without audience) using multiple cameras and lighting effects; another was filmed at this year’s Boston College Arts Festival at reduced capacity.
The highlight is undoubtedly the Troupe’s Salute to Harry Potter, a six-minute compilation of choreographed pieces inspired by the famous book / movie franchise. Shown at BC’s Conte Forum, with appropriate spooky lighting, the mini-production uses high-quality videography and editing. BCID entered the Harry Potter video into the Collegiate Irish Dance Association’s virtual competition and won first place.
If you haven’t followed college-age Irish dance ensembles, don’t expect to see the proven traditional style routines or adherence to competition protocols. Dancers are more likely to use pre-recorded pop, rock and hip-hop as musical accompaniment, and to interpolate movements and sequences reflecting modern dance alongside traditional Irish elements.
Sure enough, “Illumination” includes a slip jig track danced to “Road to Errogie”, by the popular Anglo-Irish quartet Flook, which is followed by the sassy and vibrant “Kings and Queens”, to Ava Max’s lead song. . Another dance goes to the high-octane electro of NGHTMRE & Slander’s “Gud Vibrations” and another to Natalie Cole’s R&B hit “This Will Be” (a video and real-time collaboration between BCID and the student jazz ensemble BC bOp!).
If that sounds like blasphemy, consider that many of these students’ association with Irish dancing dates back to elementary school age, or earlier, and has included many competitions and fleadhanna; a college age group effort provides the opportunity to innovate and move beyond their experience, to try things out just for fun – and to have what could be a last spin in n ‘ any type of organized Irish dance experience.
In this regard, “Illuminate” is also a kind of video album and memory for BCID. Members have recorded introductions for each piece, allowing them to share personal memories and reflections on their BCID experiences, and a compilation of informal group video clips is released at the very end. The team also maintains its tradition of greeting senior BCID graduates, bringing out each of the five members of the 2021 class for a brief solo, to applause and cheers.
“Throughout our lives Irish dancing has remained a constant, through the elementary school years, the difficult phase of middle school and throughout high school,” reads a section of the “Illuminate” curriculum (available in PDF via the BCID Facebook page,
facebook.com/bcirishdanceclub). “Now more than ever Irish dancing has given us the opportunity to connect with each other during the trials and tribulations of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
You can see “Illuminate” on https://youtu.be/o24L249qEL4.
Sean Smith writes about Irish music and dance for The Reporter’s sister publication, Boston Irish.