Soaring with happy feet

April 03, 2003|by KEVIN CLAPP

Most days, Bryan Carr has happy feet. Having arrived in America just a few hours ago, however, he's got himself a tired body. Even his brogue comes across a bit wilted on the telephone.

No wonder, considering he spent more than six hours on a plane from Ireland to New York. Still, it's good to be stateside, says the producer of "The Spirit of Ireland." Audiences, he says, always display a tremendous amount of goodwill to the dancers.

"You always find that people tend to come up to you or come to the show because they feel an attachment to Ireland," he says.


At 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 5, "The Spirit of Ireland" will grace The Maryland Theatre stage, combining authentic song and dance.

Like Carr, Christopher McSorley is weary after a long day of travel, the first leg of a trip that will resume in the morning with a flight to Nashville, Tenn., for the start of a monthlong U.S. tour. Still, McSorley spoke from his New York hotel room last week about the joy of dancing.

A member of Ceol Chiarrai (pronounced Key-ole Key-air-y) for two years, the 18-year-old dancer got his start as a youngster in Southern Australia, the son of an Irish-born father. The boy rebelled against lessons at first.

"It just grew on me," McSorley says. "I won championships, and it kept going from there."

McSorley joined the company, based in Ballybunion, County Kerry, Ireland, after an audition that sprang from a backstage visit with friends at a Ceol Chiarrai performance. Ever since, he has toured the world performing each of the company's two shows, "The Spirit of Ireland" and "To Dance on the Moon."

The dancer enjoys the physical commitment required to keep his skills sharp, as well as the camaraderie amongst the troupe, which for "Spirit" includes five musicians, a singer and eight dancers.

Unlike other touring shows with an Irish bent - "Riverdance," "Lord of the Dance" and the like - "The Spirit of Ireland" eschews storytelling for a cultural extravaganza introducing Celtic music and dance to a wide audience.

"This is more of a cabaret. The show doesn't really have a story to it," McSorley says. "I find, with the story show, you turn yourself into a dancer-slash-actor. You have to play a part in the show and have to get the story out. This one, you're not under as much pressure, you're just giving the audience a dose of Irish dancing."

Audiences, Carr says, seem to respond. Particularly in America, he adds, with its population of Irish-Americans.

"You're always welcomed here," Carr says. "You know the show's going to come out well, even though that doesn't mean you rest on your laurels."

Quite the opposite, McSorley says. His fellow dancers always try to top themselves, playfully upping the ante on stage by altering steps and keeping each other on their toes.

The audience may not tell the difference, but it keeps the troupe engaged with what they're doing.

"We might change little things here and there. There's a sort of rivalry on stage, but a good one," McSorley says. "It's a bit of a cat and mouse thing on stage. You have to make it fun for yourself. If you do the same thing every night, it's a bit of a downer, and you don't perform as well."

And, he says, the troupe relies on audience energy. A stagnant crowd tends to deflate him a bit. More enthusiastic groups, however, help him soar.

"We get a real buzz from the audience," McSorley says. "With the really good audiences, they start getting into it and you play up to it, so they feel part of it, sort of. And you feed off of that. It's a natural high, and you really have a good time."

"The Spirit of Ireland," an evening of Irish music, song and dance

7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 5

The Maryland Theatre

21 S. Potomac St.


Tickets cost $45 and $50.

For information, call 301-790-2000 or go to on the Web.

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