At first glance, Irish and modern dance seem worlds apart. Irish dancers, taught to maintain an upright posture, rigid arms and stick-straight legs, rarely find themselves practicing contractions and tilts. However, if you catch Darrah Carr Dance's upcoming NYC season, you might see Irish dancers doing just that! Choreographer Darrah Carr bridges the gap between the two genres with her signature "ModErin" style. Comprising dancers with a diverse array of backgrounds, the company performs everything from edgy ModErin fusion pieces to traditional Irish duets. DS caught up with Darrah Carr Dance company member Caitlin McNeill to get the scoop on this unique style. --Sarah Badger
Dance Spirit: How would you characterize Darrah's style?
Caitlin McNeill: It's really dynamic, there are many parts to it. We add in swing and jazz, so it's not just modern and Irish. It's really high energy. Her style is also very collaborative--she starts off with a concept and then asks company members for input. It's very exciting!
DS: When did you start dancing with Darrah Carr?
CM: I met Darrah while we were both dancing with Niall O'Leary's Irish Dance Troupe. I started dancing with her company when I was 17 (I'm 21 now) and mostly doing the Irish dance elements. After a year or so, Darrah asked, "Do you want to learn more of the fusion dances?" I learned the pieces and became one of her core members.
DS: What is your training background like?
CM: I didn't have any training in other forms of dance besides Irish. I had seen some other shows with jazz and modern dance, but I didn't have any training.
DS: What was it like to transition from traditional Irish step dancing to ModErin?
CM: Darrah is really big on incorporating arms into all of the dances and that's definitely the biggest challenge for me.
DS: Tell us a little about some of the pieces you'll be performing in the upcoming season.
CM: One of my favorites is called "On the Six" and fuses Irish dance and swing dance. The audience really loves it!
Catch Caitlin performing with Darrah Carr Dance November 12-14 at the Irish Arts Center in NYC. Click here for more information.
Photo of Caitlin McNeill by Lois Greenfield.