Monday, February 13, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day, Irish Dancers!

What does an Irish dancer want for Valentine's Day?

A sweet, red and pink valentine, adorned with hearts and glitter?

Or perhaps a bouquet of roses from that special someone?

Or maybe something sparkly and wrapped in a bow?

Cards, flowers, and presents are always welcome on Valentine's day, but what every Irish dancer [and non-dancers] really wants on this holiday is inherently simple. The best gift of all is LOVE! What Irish dancer hasn't dreamt about falling in love with the man [or woman] of their dreams, who also shares their passion for Irish dance? Many of us dancers are lucky enough to find love, without the side of Irish dance, but a lucky few dancers have fallen in love with someone special who shares their love for Irish dance.  Two of these unique couples that have found happiness, success, love, and marriage through Irish dance are Bernadette Flynn and Damien O'Kane, and Sheila Ryan Davoren and Tony Davoren. 

Bernadette Flynn and Damien O'Kane are one of my absolute favorite Irish dancing couples. Bernadette and Damien have toured the world together, staring as leads in Lord of the Dance. Both joined the original LOTD cast in 1996. With dozens of championship titles [Bernadette having won the World's a whopping 6 times!] and a pair of TCRGs between them, they are one of the most talented Irish dancing couples to grace the stage. On the small screen, they performed together in the 2009 NBC series, "Superstars of Dance."  In addition to their talents on stage and screen, this leading couple has inspired and coached hundreds of up-and-coming dancers as instructors at Camp Rince Ceol.  Damien and Bernie [as she's lovingly called] married in 2005. I was lucky enough meet Damien and Bernadette while working as a counselor at Camp Rince Ceol, and I just adore these two. They are a triple threat: amazingly talented, sincerely kind, and dare I say, incredibly good looking to boot! Honestly, how can you not love them? After watching these two stunning duets and heartwarming interviews, I actually might adore this couple even more than I already thought possible...

My other hands-down, favorite Irish dancing couple is Sheila Ryan Davoren and Tony Davoren [although Tony isn't technically a dancer himself]. After competing on the World Championship level with the Golden School and later earning her TCRG in 1993, Sheila was one of the first American dancers to be asked join the cast of Riverdance in 1996. Hailing from Wicklow, Ireland, Tony was one of the original musicians to tour with Riverdance and is featured on not one, but two Grammy award winning recordings ["Riverdance: The Show" and "The Long Black Veil"].  Sheila also directed and produced "Dancing at the Crossroads," an instructional ceili video. Tony, an accomplished producer, directed the video's music. His musical talents are evident in this 1996 Riverdance performance of "Oscail an Doras." [Sorry, no video of Sheila's beautiful dancing. She'll tell you herself that Tony got all the screen-time!] 

After falling head over Irish dancing heels for one another while touring with Riverdance, Tony and Sheila married in 2002. They are happily raising their three beautiful children, Roisin, Aoife, and Malachy. Tony and Sheila's successes are extensive, but they are best known in the Irish dance community for the original place "where Irish dancers spend their summers" ...Camp Rince Ceol! Tony and Sheila's camp is a labor of love. The camp allows dancers to spend their summer learning first-hand from stars of the Irish dance world in an incredibly fun, non-competitive environment that fosters true friendships. As a former camper and counselor myself, I know first hand the unique environment Tony and Sheila have created for Irish dancers. The memories and freindships created at Camp Rince Ceol are cherished by countless dancers worldwide [including me!]. Camp Rince Ceol is extraordinary, all thanks to Tony and Sheila. 

Tony and Sheila, and Bernadette and Damien are two real-life Irish dancing fairy-tale love stories. Both of these Irish dancing power-couples showcase their talents and love for Irish culture [and each other] in the instructor's showcase from Camp Rince Ceol 2011. Enjoy!

Happy Valentine's Day dancers! Hope it is filled with lots of love... and chocolate!

Happy Dancing
- Moira 

All of the dresses featured in this post [with the exception of Julia O'Rourke's] are currently for sale online. If you're interested in one, click the links below. 
Red and white hearts [Doire Dress Designs by Shauna Sheils]
Red and black with white roses [Elevation Designs by Gavin Doherty]: 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

PRODIJIG: Changing the Game

"Tall and straight my mother taught, this is how we dance. Tall and straight my father taught me, this is how we dance."
- Riverdance

"I'm livin in the 21st century, Doin' something mean to it, Do it better than anybody you ever seen do it. Screams from the haters, got a nice ring to it. I guess every superhero needs his theme music."
- Kanye West, "Power"

Prodijig may have the same Irish dance roots as Riverdance, but they have certainly diverged from the usual Irish dance show pieces.  Since Prodijig wowed the judges of "Got to Dance" with their cutting-edgy choreography to Kanye West's, "Power," the Irish dance world has been a buzz...and with good reason. Their technique is impeccable and their jaw-dropping fusion of traditional Irish dance with hip-hop is like nothing the Irish dance community has seen before. See for yourself... [Warning: I'm 90% sure I didn't blink the first time I watched this. Prepare to be amazed.]

The ground breaking choreography performed by Prodijg on the reality show, "Got to Dance," has captivated Irish dancers worldwide. Like many other American Irish dancers, I've been seriously wishing I lived in the UK or Ireland so I could watch the show live, but I've been staying on top of the series via the internet. Thanks to Prodijig's innovative style and phenomenal feet, they aced the audition, made the semi-finals, and are now working to move on to the finals! Check out their semi-finals performance, to Chris Brown's "Beautiful People." [Get ready to not blink again. Can't take my eyes off of them!]

Amazing right?! This next video is not as high-quality [I'm guesing some awesome Prodijig fan videoed their TV screen] but it contains the full, unedited version of Prodijig's semi-final routine...

Prodijig is not the first to perform Irish dance in a reality TV dance competition. Other talented dancers have graced the small screen on reality TV. In Season 8 of "So You Think You Can Dance," Mary Kate Sheehan made the first round of auditions with her graceful and fairly traditional routine. Up and Over It captured America's attention with their "hand-dance" routine [and what Irish dancer can't relate to that?] , and even landed a McDonald's commercial! Brosena's performance on this season's "Got to Dance" added to the list of accomplished Irish dancers capturing hearts on reality TV. [How adorable are they?! Plus, they've got talent to spare.]

But what makes Prodijig so special? They aren't the only foot-perfect Irish dancers in the world. They aren't the first to create ridiculously quick and unique rhythms They aren't the only group to perform those seemingly impossible steps in perfect harmony. Riverdance's Thunderstorm and Lord of the Dance/Feet of Flames' Warriors mastered that back in the '90s. Prodijig certainly hasn't introduced the world to intricate and flawless, contemporary Irish dance performances. Trinity Irish Dancers have continued to push the envelope [and win World Championships!] with their choreography in routines such as "The Dawn." Looking at what other Irish dancers and shows have already accomplished, Prodijig might not appear to be so special...

 ... but Prodijig is beyond exceptional. 

This group of 7 extremely gifted dancers has made waves in the Irish dancing world because they changed the game. They took something beautiful and traditional [the Irish dance we all know and love], and made it ultra-modern and edgy. In doing so, they still managed to stay true to the characteristics that have distinguished Irish dance from other dance forms for centuries. Look past the hip-hop music and futuristic costumes, and everything is still there. Prodijig may not be dancing "tall and straight" as we expect it, but their turn out, the clarity of their sound, and their precise foot placement are undeniable. Prodijig is an Irish dancing phenomenon, and I can't wait to see what they come up with next. Who's with me?

Best of luck to Prodijig as they continue on their journey to the March 4th finals of "Got to Dance!"  SKY1 [in Ireland and the UK]. Change the game!

Can't get enough Prodijig? You can find them on Facebook and twitter: @PRODIJIG. You can also follow the individual members of the group on twitter: Alan Kenefick [@alanPRODIJIG], Andy O'Reilly [@andyPRODIJIG], Ciara McGillan [@ciaraPRODIJIG], Craig Mason [@craigPRODIJIG], Dane McKiernan [@danePRODIJIG], Darren Casey [@darrenPRODIJIG], and Christina Havlin [@tinaPRODIJIG]. 

Don't forget to follow me on twitter while you're there :) @Moireee

Happy Dancing!
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