Atlantic Steps, with Kieran Jordan, bringing sean-nós dance to Boston
Among the many touring Irish cultural shows headed for Boston this month is Atlantic Steps, which prominently features Dorchester’s Kieran Jordan. She has been dancing since she was five and holds An Coimisiun le Rince Gaelacha T.C.R.G. certification for teaching Irish dance.
Among her many accomplishments is the choreographing of the Christmas Celtic Sojourn series and the producing of two DVDs on old-style Irish dance.
The Lower Mills resident is part of the US leg of the international touring company of Atlantic Steps, which tells the epic story of Ireland’s oldest dance form, portrayed through the music, song, dance, and Atlantic-Ocean-inspired energy of the Connemara region. Centered on the joyful sean-nós (pronounced shawn-nos, meaning “old style”) dance, the show brings this genre to its rightful place on the world stage.
One of many forms of Irish dance, sean-nós is an informal and spontaneous art form, traditionally performed solo. Unlike the better-known Irish step-dancing (Riverdance), sean-nós dance is characterized by its “low to the ground” footwork, free movement of the arms, and improvisation. Creating a percussive music of its own, sean-nós has influenced such American forms as clogging, hoofing, and soft shoe tap dancing.
The sean-nós revival began a few years back with the Cunningham family show, “Fuaim Chonamara,” headed by Brian Cunningham, who has won all the major dance competitions in Ireland. What began as a pastime for him and his siblings was handed down by their grandparents as a tradition from the days of house dances. “Fuaim Chonamara” featured the Cunningham family dancers from Connemara and a couple of Riverdance alumni.
Brian has performed with the very top Irish acts, including Dé Danann, The Chieftains, Sharon Shannon, Altan, and Dervish & Téada.
In fact, as Kieran tells the Reporter, it was through the last-named group that she was brought together with Cunningham. Téada, which means “strings” in the Irish language, is a five-man group that deftly plays up structural intricacies of traditional Irish music while preserving the timeless energy of the reels, jigs, hornpipes, and other lesser-known tunes in the repertoire.
“I was invited to dance in a couple of shows last March with the group Téada, and Brian Cunningham frequently tours and performs with them,” Jordan explained. “So I met Brian around this time last year. We enjoyed working together — sharing the energy, music, and improv nature of sean-nós dance. Shortly after that, Oisín Mac Diarmada (from Téada, who is also the producer for Atlantic Steps) and Brian arranged for me to join Atlantic Steps in a performance and choreography role.
“The current tour of Atlantic Steps is the show’s first US theater tour. We started the tour in late January, and by the time we hit Boston, we’ll have performed in Arizona, California, Kansas, and Tennessee. It feels great to be finishing up in Boston for a home town crowd. Along with me, several of the other dancers are from the New England area.
“It’s really been a dream team to work with — including all the dancers, musicians, Oisín and Brian, our lighting folks Stephen Petrilli and Will DeLorm, and my husband Vincent Crotty, who created our set designs. We can’t wait to share our excitement and passion for that art form with the Boston audience!”
Jordan adds: “For the Boston shows, our special guest singer will be Mairin Ui Cheide, renowned sean-nós singer from Connemara, who lives in Dorchester.”
Atlantic Steps will be at Berklee Performance Center for two shows on Saturday, March 23, 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. The box office number is 617-747-2261. Every ticket enters its holder to win a free trip to Ireland for two – air and hotel from Tenon Tours.
The event is being heavily promoted through Shamrock Nation Boston. Bus transportation will be provided from Dorchester and Milton. Call Patrick to reserve at 781-534-3919.