sun 14/07/2024

Jig | reviews, news & interviews



Irish dancing documentary treads heavily behind much better dance films

It's all about winning: Julia from New York jigs hopefully for the trophy

Can one enjoy watching a film supposedly about dance in which competition and being Number One is all and the word “artistry” is not mentioned once? And in which performers are nameless numbers? And the documentary-maker shows not a scintilla of curiosity about why this might be? One might, if it were handled with a twisted sense of humour and cutting observation.

Unfortunately, Jig doesn't have that. Sue Bourne's film enters a dance-movie genre that has lately become surprisingly well stacked, but it lacks any of the imaginative lyricism of Wim Wenders’ Pina, the dramatic exhilaration of Beadie Finzi's Only When I Dance, the sophistication of Frederick Wiseman’s La Danse, or the nutty flamboyance of Baz Luhrmann’s spoof, Strictly Ballroom, against which - in entertainment terms - this has to compete. If you succumbed even a little to the show Riverdance - and I certainly did, first time round - you have to be a wee bit curious about the massive desire of sections of folk to stick all their energy in their legs, batten down all other more expressive parts of their body, and kick the bejasus out of the floor.

While the anthropological imperative of Irish step-dancing is pretty interesting, in practice it appears to have evolved into one of the most dogmatic systems of modern anti-dance that I can think of. Entirely driven by competition ethos, it has become a dance sport in which ruthless small girls and docile mothers, or ruthless mothers and docile daughters, chase the Number One spot with gritted teeth and incredibly knotted footwook, and nary a ghost of the real soul and charm of dancing.

Jig_Moscow_AnnaNow, simply as a study of the multiple routes to survival in the jungle, Jig could have had more awareness than Bourne contrives, with her clichéd device of focusing on last year’s world championships in Glasgow and following some of the competitors there. They range from ferocious 11-year-olds to sweet but not very good Irish hoofing enthusiasts from Moscow whose hopes of progress in “the worlds” are frustrated by elusive travel visas (pictured left, Muscovite Anna in snowy Moscow).

The tradition of foot-only dancing spans the world, from Durham tabletop dancing and Irish step-dancing, to South African gumboot dancing by mining slaves, and all of them have different and revealing reasons for the constrictions in their movements. The Irish version is said to be influenced by the Catholic church’s disapproval of sexuality in dancing, but its stays were loosened when Irish emigrants took it to America and it is one of the parents of black tap dance as well as Appalachian clog dance.

What’s allowed some of these percussive foot dances to leap out of their niches into theatre is the play of music and expression through rhythm or the body. These are both areas that the Irish dancing form is particularly inelastic in, which explains why, as against hip hop, say, or tap (both of which are having their moments this week in the stage spotlight in London) it can’t leave the juvenilia of competition behind and mature into something of more adult interest than a scoreboard's tally.

Jig_Simona__mamma_And so the “world championships” continue, the huge silver cups remorselessly hunted down by dolls in huge ringleted wigs and blindingly coloured frilled dresses - of which a face-off between a determined Irish tot and her wily New Yorker rival is made the climax in Jig. Context, though, is sketchy and so is inquiry. There is a dreary set-up of competition between three 21-year-olds in the oldest group, in which no one mentions any artistic reason why Simona from London, with her fearsome mother (the pair pictured right), will always be beaten by light-footed Claire from Galway. Nor is any of the technical virtuosity explained.

Of more human interest are the three boys - the joyful little Brummie John, one of six brothers, the 17-year-old Joe whose rich Californian family moved to Birmingham to find him a top teacher, and, most intriguingly, Sandun, the Sri Lankan boy adopted by a white Dutch couple, who has found in Irish dancing a remedial focus for his confused sense of self. Yet you sense that, as blinkeredly as any judge, the film-maker lost her interest in Sandun the moment he didn’t make the cut in the competition.

Watch the trailer for Jig

Irish step-dancing has become a dance sport in which ruthless small girls and docile mothers, or vice versa, chase the Number One spot

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This article was supposed to be a review of the film'Jig' but the critic has failed by not addressing the film dieectly but focusing on reviewing Irish Dancing. The phrase 'Ignorance is bliss' comes to mind when reading this critic's review. The critic fails to comprehend that to dance with ones arms rigid by sides and maintaing perfect timing and grace is actually more difficult than to waltz around the stage with arms flapping. It is obivious that this critic has little knowledge of how Irish Dancers are capable of acheiving to make such unatural and difficult movements look natural or how and why families put themselves under such financial and emotional difficulties in order to gain the prize of the title of World Champion. Some may ask, Irish dancing has a World Championship? But any competition that attracts dancers from Europe, Africa, America and Asia deserves to call itself a World Championship. The Jig critic fails to mention that dancers from 32 countries took part in this year's world championship. No, because probably he does not have an in-depth knowledge of the Irish dancing world but yet he sets himself up as an expert in the dance form. However, we don't expect anything different from the world of critics, a world where everyone has an opinion on almost everything but true knowledge of nothing. When one reviews the film it may obvious to those in the know that the word ignorance is paramount to the critic. What should be in focus when looking at the film is the determination of dancers, the dediciation of teachers and dancers and the emotional attachment of parents involved in having the honour of taking part in a very difficult art form. But Mr. Critic don't take my word on how and why your critical review is flawed, just show us how you are qualified to have an opinion on how ' Irish dancers' stack up and if it's as easy or boring as you suggest in your review for one to dance with arms rigid and with intricate footwork and beautiful timng. I am sure you or your kin will feature at next year's Irish Dance World Championships in Belfast, it is after all easy to dance with arms rigid by side.

I-dancer, I couldn't agree more. A film critic's job is not to say whether or not they like the topic of a documentary, but rather whether or not it is a good documentary on that topic. I also thinks it's a gross misunderstanding to say that Irish Dancing lacks the soul of dancing, if you talk to Irish Dancers from around the globe about why they dance, and how they feel when they dance then I'm sure that you will find some soul. I for one, never feel more alive when I dance, whether that's on stage at competitions, or when I'm by myself. Also, you say that Irish dance is a dance sport, yet seem to judge it as you would dance, which just doesn't really work. Either it's a sport, or a form of dance (which for you requires emotional expression it would appear), but you can't deem it to be a sport, and then deride it for being a terrible form of dancing. Another point is that many other dance forms lack emotional expression, for example a lot of hip hop isn't emotionally expressive, whilst dancing almost mechanically, as if you were a robot, takes an incredible amount of skill and practice, and is amazing to watch, it is hardly emotionally expressive (after all you dislike Irish Dancing because they have "battened down the more emotionally expressive parts of their body", yet a lot of dance forms use these parts, but still lack expression). Also, if you watched the dance drama competitions (which are held at the World Championships), you would see that emotion can be conveyed through Irish Dance. To review your review, I would say that you appear to have a dislike of Irish Dancing (fair enough, that is your prerogative), yet this dislike is held for extremely illogical reasons. You also appear to feel that you are the sole determiner for what constitutes a good form of dance, which displays more than a degree of arrogance on your part. I'm sure that you'd think it preposterous if a dance critic who hates ballet went to review a ballet, yet wrote it a terrible review due to their dislike of the art form itself - this is basically what you have done with regards Jig. Just as you complain that the film peters out, as opposed to having a decent ending (wow, a part of the article which is actually critiquing the film....I'm impressed), I in response complain that your 'review' peters out too, you just end your tirade on Irish dance, without ever concluding about the actual film. Were your review meant to have been a review on Irish Dancing, it would have been mediocre at best (lets be honest, eloquently slagging off something isn't a particularly challenging discipline - see how I'm doing it about your review now?), sadly however, you are meant to have reviewed the actual film, so much of what you have written above is irrelevant. Alas, the title is 'Film - Jig', not 'Everything You Have Ever Thought, Heard, Guessed or Assumed About Irish Dancing'. Summary: Review = 0/5 stars. At best sketchy about the film itself, and mainly a tirade about the awfulness of Irish Dancing, which is frankly useless when trying to determine whether or not it is a good film.

It's competitive. You are watching a film about the best in the dance world competing for the highest honor. OF COURSE it's going to be vicious!!!! What would you expect of a documentary of the number one football team to be? What would you expect of one of the tennis world? This is the same idea, only more hardcore. You get an injury in sports and you take off. You get an injury in Irish dance? You get the heck over it and keep dancing before your teacher yells at you for slacking. It takes work. A lot of work. Judging by the quality of this article, you don't know the meaning of that word. You say it's all about the dresses, the looks? I had surgery before age 17 so that I could keep dancing. It's a passion. This film shows that passion. All you did was show a one-sided, narrow view of the movie. Not an honest review that actually looks at the film for what it is. This was twisted by your own personal views on the world of Irish dance, not the movie. You don't appreciate this art--you should be ashamed to have written this review for something called the ARTS desk. Not art. ARTS. As in, not just ballet, tap, jazz, painting, sculpture. Capiche? Because it is different, you didn't even give it a chance. This world is not the glamorous facade of Riverdance--this is true Irish dance. This is the art. This is the passion, in every sense of that word. And you just blow it off.

I don't myself have any views on Irish dancing as such, and I am not much wiser as to the merits of the film itself. Yes, reviewer, you are not part of the subset of society that lives eats and breathes competitive ..... anything, I don't know, rose growing. Shall we (your broadly in agreement readers) have a little group hug and congratulate ourselves on this? I think you were trying to point out that the film somehow failed to be particularly incisive or critical of this milieu?

If the reviewer feels that Irish Dancing is not visually interesting, entertaining, or worthy of any artistic merit simply because of the lack of outwardly projected emotion inherent in the art they must also believe that Merce Cunningham does not deserve any of his 60+ awards and honors to his name.

First of all, Ana's ceili team is amazing. You have to to go to Worlds. You have to have talent to go to Worlds. You can't just say oh this is horrible all they do is wear makeup and put on a dress and a wig and dance. No, no, no, no. I practice an hour a day to go to Worlds. I love Irish dance. It is my passion. It is my favorite thing in the world. You don't think ballet is weird. Why do you think irish dance is a bunch of weirdos in dresses and wigs?We have talent. How many people do you know can practice 6 hours straight, without stopping, for fun. I will list everyone in this movie who does it for fun. Brogan, Julia, Claire, Simona, Suzzane, Ana, John, Joe, Sandun. Now I will list everyone I know who irish dances who does it for fun. Everyone. You can't just say oh this is trash. No one self respecting would do it. You aren't honored in society. Well, guess what, we only carry a bad image in adult society because you don't take the time to really get to know us and appreciate irish dance for what it is. You don't take time to look past the dress and the wig.

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