Sunday Business Post: Another Celtic Dance Springs Out of River

The Sunday Business Post
Dublin, Ireland
July 25, 1999

“Another Celtic Dance Springs Out of River”
By Joanne Hayden

Any production advertising itself as a “Celtic Ballet” runs the risk of being compared to Riverdance, or at least being referred to in the same context.  Choreographer and dancer Darrah Carr stresses that “Shannon”, her production which opens at the Bank of Ireland Arts Centre on August 17, is “pretty unlike” Riverdance, although she recognizes the benefits of the phenomenally successful Irish show.  “I think Riverdance has done a great deal to generate interest in Irish dance,” she says, “which thereby generates interest in dance in Ireland.”

An Irish-American from Ohio, Carr studied step dancing throughout her childhood and while at college, developed an interest in Dance Ethnography.  Currently on a choreography fellowship at New York University, Carr traveled around Ireland four summers ago, talking to set dancers and researching the history of Irish dance for her senior thesis.

“Shannon,” inspired by the myth of the river and performed by modern American dancers to original music composed by Eurovision winner Jimmy Walsh, had its premiere in April at St. Bartholomew’s Church in midtown Manhattan.  Carr says she has encountered very little cynicism about “Shannon,” although she is aware of the potential dangers of mixing cultural forms and disciplines.  “I think the trend towards fusion, or taking a folk discipline whether that be Irish, Russian, or Spanish dance and combining it with more modern ideas is a very popular thing right now,” says Carr, “but I wonder about it.  I think on the one hand it’s almost a natural evolution of our society, especially in the United States.  It’s a very diverse society, so it’s almost inevitable that the mixing happens.  On the other had, I think it’s important to have an understanding of what you’re doing and of the traditions themselves before you start combining things.”

As well as studying and running her own dance company, Darrah Carr Dance, Carr is part of Banshee, a group of six female artists based in New York who came together in October 1997 to form a collective on the internet.  Their site,, became so popular that the group began to perform together around New York and elsewhere in the United States.  “It’s a varied show,” Carr explains, “with readings, skits, singing and dancing all based on Irish themes.”  “It’s really hard to be an independent artist in New York on your own,” says Carr.  “There are so many and it’s such a huge place, so to band together makes you stronger emotionally and publicly, too.” 

“Shannon” will be performed at the BOI Arts Centre in Dublin on August 17-22.

Darrah Carr