Julia O'Rouke from the movie "Jig"by Sue Bourne. (Screen Media Films )
Irish step dancing, a traditional performance dance most widely known from the "Riverdance" theatrical franchise, receives exuberant treatment in the superbly crafted documentary "Jig." Producer-director Sue Bourne (with a strong assist from cinematographer Joe Russell) follows a group of ambitious young hopefuls from the U.S., Europe and Russia as they prepare to compete in the 40th Irish Dancing World Championships, held last year in Glasgow, Scotland.
This highly involving film deftly captures the unique physical, emotional and financial aspects of diving into competitive Irish dance, with the participants' addictive immersion the overwhelming takeaway. Ten-year-olds such as Northern Ireland's captivating Brogan McCay, Long Island's uber-focused Julia O'Rourke and the "Billy Elliot"-like John Whitehurst from Birmingham, England, are a few of the memorable contestants seen at home and, later, at "The Worlds," where 6,000 competitors vie for 22 championship titles in nail-biting showdowns.
Several teen and young adult dancers — most notably rising star Joe Bitter, whose family relocated from California to England so he could train with world-class teacher John Carey — are also intriguingly profiled, as are the various entrants' parents and hard-driving instructors. The female dancers' over-the-top wigs and dresses get their due close-ups as well.
As for the dancing itself, it's nothing short of dazzling.
"Jig." MPAA rating: PG for infrequent mild language and drug references. Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes. At Laemmle's Sunset 5, West Hollywood.