Written by @curiostraveller & Edited by @joehairie Photos & Videos by The Gaelic Girls Irish Dancing Troupe and arranged by @joehairie Credit: Sinead McGuire
During both performances, on July 29 & 30, 2016, this particular team showed to the audiences and members of judges, their ability in being consistent, delivering the best and most importantly had all the artistic values. Coming in to the stage differently than the other competitors, they proved to nailed all the general values of dance competition (regardless categories), from the choreography, projection, execution of movement, technical skills and even left an astounding impression to all that watched both sessions. Having to perform a dance based on folklore background, their ‘story’ seemed to leave big impact to the audiences, the story of ‘Selkies’ that has at least some degree of similarity in other ‘stories’ from all around the world. That was perhaps the secret of the success of the dance, a great story line combined with artistic values. Beautifully executed! Introducing to you the Gaelic Girls Irish Dancing Troupe.
The Gaelic Girls Irish Dancing Troupe was started in 2012, after a group of dancers decided to no longer compete in Irish Dancing competitions, but to instead perform professionally. Once they began performing their group began to obtain popularity and have since travelled to Queensland Australia, Osaka Japan, and before this year’s SIFF festival to Singapore. The group performs regularly at events and weddings. Their biggest event of the year is St Patrick’s Day, Irelands biggest day of the year. This year on St Patrick’s day the group was fully booked with over 20 performances on the one day. This year on St Patrick’s Day celebrations one of the groups performances went viral, with over 2 million hits across social media.
Formed in Perth, Australia in 2012, the group was formed after very successful solo competitive careers, with highlights from the dancers including:
Top five placings at the World Irish Dancing Championships
Top five placings at the All Ireland Irish Dancing Championships
Top five placings at the Australian Irish Dancing National Championships
Top five placings at the All Scotland Championships in Irish Dancing
Top five placings at the Great Britain Irish Dancing Championships
Top twenty placings at the North American Irish Dancing Championships
T.C.R.G (Teagascóir Choimisiúin le Rinci Gaelacha) qualification to teach as a registered Irish dancing teacher
SIFF 2016 Performance
The performance for SIFF was done by the Gaelic Girls Irish Dancing Troupe made of nine dancers. Their names were Mandy Stevenson, Roisin Nora Theodorou, Aine Coll, Sophie Davidson, Roisin Colgan, Aisling Hillas, Abbie McLaughlin, Kirstie Perry and Sinead McGuire. The performance was done in collaboration with musicians called the Broken Pokers. They are led by Derrick Buckley (guitar), Ben Christiansen (mandolin) , Toby Anning (Bodhran- Irish Drum), Eugene Hackett (Banjo) and Ronan Collins (accordion).
The performance at SIFF was based on Celtic myth of the Selkies, warriors of the sea. They were believed to be half human, half seal and had the ability to transform from one creature to another by putting on or shedding their precious seal skin. When seals were hunted in mass the Selkies were known to raise mighty storms and upturn boats along the Irish coast. However if left alone, the Selkies were gentle souls, and often came ashore at night to shed their Selkie seal skins and dance in the moonlight. In their human form they were said to be cursed for a constant longing of the sea and many of the angry islanders, jealous of their beauty, would try to prevent them from returning by stealing their Selkie skin. When happened, a fierce battle would ensue….
The dance was performed in both hard and soft shoes. In Irish Dancing, both of these shoes are used to perform. The hard shoes are similar to tap shoes, made with fibreglass tips to create rhythm, whereas the soft shoes are quiet and the style is more gentle and graceful. In the SIFF performance, the changing of shoes were representative of the two fighting groups, the humans (wearing hard shoes) and the Selkies (wearing soft shoes). The performance was choreographed by lead dancer Mandy Stevenson. Mandy had a highly successful competitive Irish Dancing career, which saw her travel the world to competitions and being ranked as a top 10 dancer in the world for three years. Not only is she a very established choreographer, but her dancing in the performance saw her being crowned overall best female dancer at SIFF 2016.
“The group regularly collaborates with musicians the Broken Pokers, and I’m sure the audience at SIFF will agree are fantastic musicians. The collaboration between Irish Dancers and live musicians are very important in the Irish Culture, as traditionally all dancing in Ireland was done to live music, and to this day Irish Dancing competitions (feis) are done with live music. In the future the Gaelic Girls would love to return to SIFF and Malaysia to perform again, and also hope to travel to other festivals around the world, spreading the Irish culture through dance and music.”-Sinead McGuire
Videos of the perfomance
For readers benefit, we have prepared 2 videos showcasing the group performance, in full, the same choreography in each video but with different angles. The first video is taken from a professional point of view (the official video of SIFF 2016) and the other is an amateur video but still showing the entire performance, from a side angle.
Video link: Click HERE. Credit: The Gaelic Girls Irish Dancing Troupe
Awards at SIFF 2016
The Gaelic Girls Irish Dancing Troupe won:
BEST PERFORMANCE AWARD
BEST FEMALE DANCER AWARD (Mandy Stevenson)
We were extremely amazed with the performance by The Gaelic Girls Irish Dancing Troupe. We have been following SIFF since its first edition and by far, of all performances by the winners in all editions, the dance by The Gaelic Girls Irish Dancing Troupe was the best, not being exaggerate to a point that might make it a fusion dance. It is as it is, presented cleverly and logically according to the story line. We understood the need to sometimes deliver a dance performance commercially, in order to attract more audiences by infusing current modern values but at times we need simplicity. Less is more.. one do not have to be overly or extremely creative in changing everything in a dance that is already traditionally superb. Keep the story line simple and easy to be understood by the audience.
That was what The Gaelics Girls Irish Dancing Troupe did. They performed according to the story line and did not infuse anything abnormal from the folklore story. We both pretty much hate to see some exaggerate dance that perform out of context just to show that they are pretty ably to put in some hard working movements, making it into a FUSION dance, so to say. For example, a dance about an ancient queen. Some choreographers are just being too smart to infuse things that are not associated to the ancient way of life. When the queen is supposed to die ( as the legend says), they change it to more dramatic ending, the queen live forever and ever, just an example. To make things worst, the dancers dance to a perfect jazzy or soul move, something that is not exactly ancient! Must we elaborate about the costumes? ohhhh have mercy!
Folk dance is supposed to be a dance that is vernacular thus ably to keep the cores and values as in the said tradition. Keep the story line, dance as the folks did at that time. The story of Selkies was easy to be understood by watching the 5 minutes performance by The Gaelic Girls Irish Dancing Troupe. Simple costumes, easy to differentiate the roles of the dress which was black and white (as in the story line), amazing Irish dancing steps as you can see in its original state-in this particular dance, represented in 2 types of shoes to indicate fighting ‘scenes’ and most importantly, the music pretty reminds us of the things we experienced in Ireland. Simply put, whatever the group was showcasing, it blended pretty well, showcasing a piece of folklore story presented in its circle of tradition.
About 3 other teams showcased their piece of folklore dance that had similar qualities as what The Gaelic Girls Irish Dancing Troupe had. However, The Gaelic Girls exceeded all of the other great performances by using one clever method, simplicity. They were the only dancers that thought of making a big entrance by coming in to the stage from the common area. Brilliant! That already made the audience, in suspense. There was no need to make a dramatic entrance like flying here and there or non stop thrilling movement, the Girls did in full total simplicity as per tradition. We must acknowledge the great music by The Broken Pokers for their amazing and awesome live music arrangement. Everything about the performance : totally perfect!
Links & Contacts
The Gaelic Girls Irish Dancing Troupe
Phone: +61 438 121 189
Facebook: Click HERE
Website: Click HERE
“A folk dance is a folk dance, it is never meant to be a modern dance. Keep it that way and that was what The Gaelic Girls Irish Dancing Troupe did. Congratulations for being the winner at SIFF 2016 and we hope to see you all soon when we travel to Australia in 2017. “-@joehairie (Editor of curiostraveller.com)
Disclaimer: Our thoughts were of our own and do not have any input from the Judges themselves. We gave our critic according to our own observation and evaluation, using our own experience gained from travelling all over places.