Teelin bit o' Irish

Dance troupe presents 'Portraits of Ireland'

Dance troupe presents 'Portraits of Ireland'

March 12, 2009|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

FREDERICK, Md. -- The idea for "Portraits of Ireland" surfaced four years ago, when Maureen Gately had her broken leg propped near a photo book on a coffee table.

"People asked me how I was going to go about combining photos with dance," Gately said in a recent interview with The Herald-Mail.

But it seems she has made it work.

Artistic director of the Teelin Irish Dance Company, Gately -- long healed from her broken leg -- said her dancers are ready to perform their latest version of "Portraits of Ireland" Saturday at the Weinberg Center for the Arts.

"Portraits" is a multimedia show that weaves together traditional Irish dance, photography and storytelling. The two-hour program has 21 acts, with all 50 dancers performing together in the last act.


Dancers will perform against the backdrop of photos shot in Ireland by Robert Burke, Gately's artistic collaborator for "Portraits." Stories written by Meg Ortel will be presented between the acts.

For principal dancers, Gately said she drew from her company's own talent pool and brought in some guest artists. Gately and dancer Ian Anderson will perform a contemporary modern duet. Long-time member Joe Duffey will lead "Hurling Boys," about the Irish sport of hurling, something like field hockey. Guest artist Rebecca Friedman, from Howard County (Md.) Ballet, will perform en pointe during "Mystic Sea Cliffs."

For "Portraits," Gately said she wanted to steer clear of what she described as the "commercialization" of Irish dance -- the popular "feis" (Irish festival) scene, where performers dance in gaudy, highly sequined costumes and wigs. Gately said these were too much like pageants.

"I don't think Irish dancing should be a pageant," Gately said.

Instead, Gately said she used traditional Irish dance as the linchpin for the choreography in "Portraits." She said her movements include elements of modern dance, ballet and South African-inspired step dancing.

The infusion of the other dance styles, Gately said, stems from her varied dance training.

Gately, 33, grew up in New Jersey and said she started Irish dancing at age 9. Her parents, who are from Ireland, sought out Peter Smith, a traditional teacher from the Irish-American community, to teach Gately.

"This was before Riverdance, so not many people knew much about it," Gately said.

As a teenager, Gately studied modern, jazz, ballet and tap. She received a bachelor of fine arts degree in dance performance from Towson University.

Gately taught Irish step dance in South Africa through the Washington D.C.-based Step Afrika Cultural Exchange.

If you go ...

WHAT: "Portraits of Ireland," presented by the Teelin Irish Dance Company

WHEN: 3 p.m. Saturday, March 14.

WHERE: Weinberg Center for the Arts, 20 W. Patrick St., in downtown Frederick, Md.

COST: Tickets cost $20, $30 and $35

CONTACT: For tickets, go to or call the box office at 301-600-2828.

MORE: Teelin Irish Dance Company,

The Herald-Mail Articles