The enormous success of Michael Flatley’s LORD OF THE DANCE show has brought Irish dancing onto the world stage. Earlier this year, a 3D-documentary revolving around this energy-filled dance company hit the movie screen and, if you missed it, is now available on DVD.
If you were a fan of LORD OF THE DANCE and would like to take a peek behind the scenes to meet some of the next generation Michael Flatley’s, then Sue Bourne’s documentary JIG may just be the right film for you.
In JIG, Bourne follows a number of young dancers as they prepare for the upcoming annual World Championship in Dublin, Ireland.
Moving from the US to England, through Holland and all the way to Russia, Bourne portrays some of the most promising rising stars of Irish dancing—male and female—and observes as they rehearse, rehearse, and rehearse their steps to perfection.
The keys to mastering the discipline are precision, speed, and rhythm. As Bourne exhibits the dedicated children, youngsters and adolescents, she also introduces us to their teachers and families, who seem even more dedicated—if not obsessed—with the art of Irish Dancing, and are paired with the pressure and pain that is typical of over-ambitious supporters.
Irish dancing places a heavy emphasis on strong leg movements, like stomping, kicking and jumping, while keeping the torso and arms rigidly still. In addition, Irish dancing is probably best known for its costumes: short cut, yet elaborate dresses on dancers with heavy make-up. Long and curly wigs are typical for any female dancer, whether they are ten-years-old or a senior. All of this can strike the unfamiliar as antiquated, or as one family member in the film calls it, “a Shirley Temple convention.” Too the devotees, however, it is part of the ritual and fascination of Irish dance.
Bourne structures her documentary around the preparation and the actual world championship competition. This story arc mirrors other competition documentaries and TV shows. However, the diversity of the contenders Bourne selects for her film—all from very different backgrounds, yet sharing an obsession with this dance style—is what keeps the film engaging.
And although it is gratifying to see Bourne’s protagonists win, it is most touching to witness how Brogan McCay, the 10-year-old Northern Irish underdog, graciously copes with her second place finish and is even happy for her opponent to win. I was rooting for Brogan to continue dancing and win the following year!
JIG is currently playing across the US, so check out the website: www.jig-the-film.us
A special edition DVD of JIG was released in October.