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A peek inside the curious world of Irish dance


To many, the competitive world of Irish dance is befuddling. High kicks and gorgeous twirls have been showcased in hit productions like Riverdance and Lord of the Dance. But past the stage lights, tour buses and tapping Michael Flatley, there’s a driving force of children, teens and adults all over the globe tirelessly practicing hours every day for one thing: The title of World Champion. JIG, a 93-minute feature documentary hitting theaters this Friday, June 17, brings us into their world.

A former competitive Irish dancer myself, I can attest to the fact that the Irish dancing lifestyle mirrors a zany episode of Toddlers & Tiaras. There are wigs, rhinestones, fake tans. OK, some stage moms, too. But JIG goes beyond the vanity, shining light on very different families with extremely different backgrounds as they all prepare for the fortieth Irish Dancing World Championships (what one might consider the Olympics of Irish dance) held in Glasgow, Scotland last March. 

In the flick, you’ll meet 10-year-olds Brogan from Derry, Northern Ireland and Julia from Long Island, New York—each other’s biggest competitors facing off in their very first World Championships. There will be 10-year-old John from Birmingham, England, the only one in a family of five boys to dance, and his classmate and mentor Joe, 15, who relocated from California with his fam for dance.

You’ll see the stories of Galway, Ireland’s Claire, London’s Simona and Suzanne of Glasgow—three 19-year-olds who have danced against each other their entire lives and are all heading to the fortieth World Championships with gold in mind.

Then there’s the story of Sandun “The Flying Dutchman,” a 16-year-old Sri Lanka native adopted by a family in Rotterdam, Holland, who will stop at nothing for a position in top five in his age group. Ana and her adult ceili team from Moscow, Russia, on the other hand, just want to give it their all on stage after a traveling hiccup puts a damper on things.

Every dancer’s story is different in JIG, yet each shows the sacrifices, struggles and joy that come along with the life of being a competitive Irish dancer. From dance classes to at-home interviews, you’ll grow to love all of the athletes featured in this flick—and the teachers and parents who tirelessly support them. And you’ll find yourself rooting for all during the film’s nail-biting competitive conclusion.

If you’re looking for an inspirational movie with the full package: Hard work, obsession, success and failure, be sure to check out JIG, premiering in New York, Boston, Chicago and Toronto this Friday. CLICK HERE for more info on the film.

Ever tried Irish dancing? Blog about it, babes.

BY PATRICIA MCNAMARA ON 6/15/2011 9:00:00 AM


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