Delaware & Hudson Canvas: Darrah Carr Brings a Touch of Ireland to Upstate New York

Delaware & Hudson Canvas
February, 2005

Spotlight on Dance: Part VI
“Darrah Carr Brings a Touch of Ireland to Upstate New York”
By Norma Jean Wood

Irish-American Darrah Carr is bringing a touch of Ireland to upstate New York with her unique blend of Irish folk and Modern dance.  Originally from Ohio, Carr has been dancing Irish step since she was six years old.  She began taking ballet at the age of 8.  She studied Modern dance at Wesleyan University in Connecticut and continued her education at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts where she received her Masters Degree in Choreography.

After getting her degree, Carr started a dance company, Darrah Carr Dance based in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  Her company currently consists of six women and one man: Breezy Berryman, Jacquelyn Elder, Kelly Hayes, Terhi Miller, Cara Surico, and TaraMarie Perri, who not only dances, but also does costume design.  Her dance partner, Niall O’Leary is a World Champion Irish dancer from Dublin, Ireland.  He heads the largest Irish dance school in New York City, and directs the Niall O'Leary Irish Dance Troupe.

There are two types of Irish step, soft shoe, which is like ballet, and hard shoe, similar to tap dancing.  Irish folk dancing combines rhythm and movement and is often performed with live music.  Carr explained that without instruments, early Irish immigrants used spoons and diddles or “mouth music” to imitate familiar rhythms and songs.  Her duet partner, O’Leary, is a master of the spoons.  Interestingly, Carr said that there are many similarities in sound between Irish rhythms and Cajun, Blue Grass and French-Canadian music because of the immigration patterns the Irish traveled when first arriving in America.

Traditional Irish dance is choreographed to be performed in small spaces, such as the tops of tables or chairs.  Carr adds a touch of modern with partnering, lifts, jumping, floor choreography, and arm movement-typically, arms remain by the sides in Irish dance.  She also adds elements of folk patterns to modern.  There are many similarities to Square dancing.  For example, the “daisy chain”-known as the “grand right and left” to modern American Square dancers.  Uniquely, some of her choreographed dances resemble what Carr said is, “A big celtic knot,” using 3--D picture embroidery as a template for her dancers.  In her performances, you can actually see a sense of weaving in and out of one another.

She has performed in downtown NYC at the New York Fringe festival, Joyce SoHo, Lehman College, and the NYC Irish Dance Festival.  One of her favorite performances is the yearly Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Lee, Massachusetts, which is a National Historic Dance Festival with an outdoor stage in the middle of the woods.  She has performed in several locations upstate including Kutz Camp and at SUNY Orange last March.

Carr currently teaches dance at Hofstra University on Long Island and at the Niall O'Leary School of Dance.  She also is a writer for national magazines: Dance, Young Dancer, and Dancer.

According to New York Times affiliate, Jennifer Dunning, “Carr is a smiling, exuberant performer with fast-flying feet.”  Her style of dance is very free, beautifully blending elements of modern dancing with traditional Irish dance.  She welcomes anyone interested to contact her.  Visit

Darrah Carr