Limited by Covid, BC Irish Dance troupe puts ‘Illuminate’ on its YouTube channel

The Boston College Irish Dance group (BCID) was able to present its annual spring performance in the university’s Robsham Theater Arts Center just before the 2020 Covid lock down, but was not as fortunate this year due to pandemic restrictions. So the student-organized troupe put together a virtual showcase, “Illuminate,” which it released on its YouTube channel in May.

The nearly hourlong video features traditional, contemporary, and hybrid dance numbers choreographed by the nearly two-dozen BCID members, including their long-time staple “Shipping Up to Boston,” to the Dropkick Murphys song. Most of the performances were recorded in an auditorium/multiple-use room setting with a single stationary camera, others on the Robsham stage (without an audience) using multiple cameras and lighting effects; another was filmed at this year’s reduced-capacity Boston College Arts Festival.

The highlight is unquestionably the troupe’s salute to Harry Potter, a six-minute compilation of choreographed pieces inspired by the popular book/movie franchise. Performed in BC’s Conte Forum, with appropriately spooky lighting, the mini-production utilizes high-quality videography and editing. BCID entered the Harry Potter video in the Collegiate Irish Dance Association’s virtual competition and won first place.

If you haven’t followed college-age Irish dance ensembles, don’t expect to see the tried-and-true traditionally styled routines or adherence to competition protocols. Dancers are more likely to use pre-recorded pop, rock, and hip-hop as their musical accompaniment, and interpolate movements and sequences reflective of modern dance alongside the traditional Irish elements.

Sure enough, “Illumination” includes a slip jig piece danced to “Road to Errogie,” by popular trad-influenced Anglo-Irish quartet Flook, which is followed by the sassy, vibrant “Kings and Queens,” to the titular song by Ava Max. Another dance is matched to the high-octane electronica of NGHTMRE & Slander’s “Gud Vibrations,” and another to Natalie Cole’s R&B hit “This Will Be” (a video-and-real-time collaboration between BCID and the student jazz ensemble BC bOp!).

If this sounds like blasphemy, consider that many of these students’ association with Irish dance goes back to elementary school age, or earlier, and has included numerous competitions and fleadhanna; a college-age group effort offers the opportunity to innovate and go beyond their experience, try things out just for fun – and to have what may be one last go-round in any kind of organized Irish dance experience.

In that respect, “Illuminate” also is a kind of video scrapbook and memoir for BCID. Members recorded introductions for each piece, allowing them to share personal memories and thoughts about their BCID experiences, and a compilation of informal group video clips plays out at the very end. The team also maintains its tradition of saluting BCID graduating seniors, bringing out each of the five Class of 2021 members for a brief solo, to raucous applause and cheers.

“Throughout all of our lives, Irish dance has remained a constant, during the elementary school years, awkward middle school phase, and all throughout high school,” reads a section of the “Illuminate” program (available on PDF through the BCID Facebook page,
facebook.com/bcirishdanceclub). “Now, more than ever, Irish dance has given us the opportunity to connect with each other during the trials and tribulations of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

You can view “Illuminate” at https://youtu.be/o24L249qEL4.

Sean Smith writes about Irish music and dance for the Reporter’s sister publication, Boston Irish.