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IMPRESSIONS: Darrah Carr Dance in "Dancing The Coral Suite" at the Irish Arts Center a Collaboration with Musicians Dana Lyn & Kyle Sanna

IMPRESSIONS: Darrah Carr Dance in "Dancing The Coral Suite" at the Irish Arts Center a Collaboration with Musicians Dana Lyn & Kyle Sanna
Christine Jowers/Follow @cmmjowers on Instagram

By Christine Jowers/Follow @cmmjowers on Instagram
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Published on December 19, 2019
Darrah Carr Dance 2018/ Whitney Browne Photographer

Music and Dancing for the Environment


Choreography by Darrah Carr Byrne in collaboration with the dancers
Music arranged by Dana Lynn and Kyle Sanna
Dana Lyn on fiddle and Kyle Sanna on guitar

Company: Cavan Byrne, Michelle Esch, Kendal Griffler, Caitlin Kelaghan, Timothy Kochka, Trent Kowalik, Melissa Padham-Maass, Jonathan Matthews, Laura Neese, Alexandra Williamson

November 23, 2019


In this the season of dancing nutcrackers, how delightful to escape the treacle of the Land of Sweets for an unexpected plunge into the ocean. In Dancing the Coral Suite, we are taken for a mesmerizing dive into biodiversity with the most unusual of guides — accomplished musicians and dancers experimenting with traditional Irish forms.

One may think of jigs and reels as lively music for an evening of social dance or of Irish stepdance as a valiant display of rhythmic virtuosity. While both these ideas hold true, Darrah Carr Dance and Dana Lyn and Kyle Sanna take tradition and our expectations to the next poetic level. Through passionate invention and exploration, they open portals to wonder.

As the musical and dancing performers amble through airs, reels, hops, jigs, improvisations— even a Baroque Bach gigue— we become immersed in the shimmery, teeming environment of a virtual coral reef. Enchanting illustrations projected on the stage walls show baby fish, sea snakes, dolphins, and octopuses. Glowing light boxes near the musicians contain colorful sea-themed pictures. The visual artist in the group happens to be the multi-talented fiddler, Lyn.

Irish dancer on knees crouched over eyes closed representing an undersea creature
Alexandra Williamson of Darrah Carr Dance; Photo by Hannah Long

Carr’s dancers astonish us with their ability to shift seamlessly from languorous, seaweed-like, slow-motion twists and turns, to impish, rapid-fire percussive footwork, responding to and complementing the excitement in the music. Surprising upright spins transform into sprees of partnering play. The dancers wrap into and away from each other, creating joyful patterns reminiscent of Celtic knots.

Alexandra Williamson and Timothy Kochka of Darrah Carr Dance; Photo by Hannah Long

What starts out looking like an intricate folk dance might turn into athletic, exuberant floor work. This floor work can evolve into lush, tensile leg, arm, and upper body extensions. Soon, it’s back to fancy feet and erect spines with those vertical leaps that pop out of nowhere in Irish dance. These wonderful variegated textures are hallmarks of ModERIN, Carr’s original, modern Irish choreographic style. She marries the foot and figure work of Irish step with the floor and upper body actions of modern dance; and, in this union, there’s never a dull moment.

Melissa Padham-Maass and Timothy Kochka pf Darrah Carr Dance; Photo by Hannah Long

Laura Neese enamors us as she dances “en pointe” in a pair of traditional hard shoes not customarily used for toe work—one of the company's many innovations with Irish dance shoes. While Neese’s torso and arms waft upward, almost ethereally romantic (imagine a  sylph or a Duncan dancer), her legs and feet, perform classic, springy tapping steps. Melissa Padham-Maass casts a spell with her full-bodied lyricism and continues the magic in a duet with Timothy Kochka, a stunning Irish step and modern performer. It is fun to learn that Jonathan Matthews, a gifted choreographer in his own right, can also perform a mean Irish step and keep our attention in interludes (here called aqualudes) of contemporary improvisation. Carr keeps excellent company with her  choice of dancers and collaborators.

Caryn Byrne with Darrah Carr Dance; Photo by Hannah Long

The addition of Carr’s wide-eyed, pre-teen daughter, Caryn Byrne, introduced as a little fish exploring the crooks and crevices of an imaginary coral reef in the first improvisatory aqualude of the evening, is particularly touching. As the evening’s music and dance come to a close, this young dancer is lifted up above the rest to look out with hope towards a new home, or maybe a new path for us to follow.

Dancing the Coral Suite, born of concern for the state of the planet and our future, is Darrah Carr Dance’s second  environmental collaboration with the  Lyn/Sanna fiddle and guitar duo. Dancing The Great Arc, the first, created in 2018, was inspired by disappearing animal species: its closing track was dedicated to the state of coral reefs.


For links to Dana Lyn and Kyle Sanna's Environmental Albums Click below.
The Great Arc
The Coral Suite

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