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Dance Review

Trinity Steps Forward While Looking Back

November 03, 1998|VICTORIA LOOSELEAF

Irish step dancing is on a roll. As we approach the millennium, this art form--once a child of the provinces and characterized by stiff torsos and flying filigreed footwork--has emerged as mass entertainment. While "Riverdance" and Michael Flatley's "Lord of the Dance" have recently dominated with Vegas flash, Trinity Irish Dance Company has been jigging, kicking and pan-piping since 1990, combining the traditional with the progressive.

Founded by former Irish step champion and choreographer Mark Howard, the Chicago-based troupe made its Los Angeles debut Sunday afternoon at UCLA's Royce Hall. The 12-part program suffered slightly from repetition, but the caliber of dancing, the beaming faces and the energy of its 22 youthful hoofers made for a dynamic presentation.

Dry ice is requisite these days, and "The Mist" featured unitard-clad dancers, barefoot and occasionally upside-down, emerging from the stuff to create sculptural poses and Busby Berkeley-like formations with their arms and bodies.

"Blackthorn" saw a quintet of girls pulling out the Celtic stops in hard-toed jig shoes, their quicksilver feet hammering out intricate rhythms, their high kicks dazzling. Darren Smith, the lone male dancer in the company, provided needed testosterone in "Step About" and "Treble Jig," jamming with dexterous tapping, airy jumps and lightning speed.

"The Mollies," co-choreographed by Howard and Brian Jeffery, is well-intended, but the Pennsylvania coal-mining narrative of the Molly Maguires failed to cohesively fuse modern moves with the power of step dancing. Drab and dark, this four-part suite featured video by Stephan Mazurek, with close-ups of eyes proving remote, the accompanying dancing tepid.

The finale, "Celt Thunder," lit up the stage with kaleidoscopic virtuosity. Taped music and a trio of able musicians kept good time--and things flowing--throughout.

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