(director/writer: Sue Bourne; cinematographer: Joe Russell; editor: Colin Monie; music: Patrick Doyle; cast: Brogan McCay (Derry), Suzanne Coyle (Scotland), John Whitehurst (Birmingham, England), Claire Greaney (Ireland), Joe Bitter (Birmingham, England), Simona Mauriello (London), John Carey (Birmingham, England), Julia O’Rourke (New York), Sandun Verschoor (Holland), Ana Kondratyeva
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
TV director Sue Bourne, with financial backing from the BBC, goes behind the scenes to give us an insider’s view of an international jig contest. This slick youth competition-based doc follows the well-tested formulaic lines of Spellbound, as it tells the story of the 40th Irish Dancing World Championships that was held in March 2010 in Glasgow.The competition draws contestants from such places as Holland (whose sole contestant is a Sri Lankan teenager boy adopted by white Dutch parents), Russia, USA, Northern Ireland, Ireland, England and Scotland, as some three thousand dancers, their families and teachers are among the thirty thousand spectators who attended for that exciting week of competition. The contestants are either in their pre-teens, teens or in their twenties. They are shown during the year rigorously training in their homeland with their teachers, for what amounts to six minutes of dance time at the Glasgow event. The caring but sometimes pushy parents let on that the dance lessons are expensive, as are the wigs and colorful costume dresses the lassies must wear in the competition. And then there’s the additional travel expenses to get to all the eligibility tournaments for the Worlds, which could be quite costly.
The Birmingham, England, entries of the adorable 11-year-old John Whitehurst and the very talented lanky 16-year-old Joe Bitter, trained by inspirational teacher John Carey, the kind of dedicated teacher we probably would all like our kids to have, provided the most intense and fun watch.There’s also thefriendly but intense rivalry between the driven New York dancer Julia and the hospitable Derry lass Brogan, that gets a lot of film time but never got me interested in rooting for a winner.
TheIrish dancers seem to all be a driven lot, who are obsessed with the dance and the competition and are willing to dedicate themselves to reaching perfection just to get a trophy. The passionate dancers all exclaim how much they love the dance and how much it brightens their lives with happiness. You got me what they see in the dance that moves them so much, but I applaud them for their work ethic and sense of purpose.Also, I applaud the filmmaker for making such a fun film about a dance competition that I knew nothing about before the film and for keeping my interest throughout. Though the film could have improved by explaining more about the background material, such as why such fancy costumes are needed and what the judges look for in scoring.Since this was filmed as a sports game movie, it would have been nice for a newcomer to Irish dance like myself to have been fed more info about the dance I was watching.
REVIEWED ON 6/9/2011 GRADE: B+