How it’s New York: It was the Stepcrew’s debut performance in New York City.
How it’s Irish: The show features Irish music and dance.
I arrived at Subculture Underground Arts at 7:20 PM last Thursday, after a long day in the recording studio, for a show by The Stepcrew. The theater was completely packed, and an air of anticipation filled the warmly lit theater before the show began.
There were simultaneous conversations about other shows people had been to recently, and about what Stepcrew shows had been like in the past… but a only a couple things stood out. Everyone was genuinely happy to be there, and everyone was exited to see the show. Subculture as a venue is a perfect example of a place in a busy city where time slows down for a few hours, and where people can truly enjoy the arts firsthand.
[pullquote]There is something about the energy of the dancers that makes you want to dance.[/pullquote]
The Stepcrew is an energetic and original new show which brings together three styles of dance forms – Ottawa Valley stepdancing, Irish stepdancing, and modern Tap.
With virtuosic dancers and musicians from The Chieftains, Cherish The Ladies, and Bowfire,
these artists and musicians take the audience on a wild ride to demonstrate the similarities and differences of these three unique dance forms.
The Stepcrew is led by Cara Butler (Irish stepdancing), and the Pilatzke brothers, Jon and Nathan. Cara has been the “official” Irish dancer with The Chieftains since 1992, and Jon and Nathan are Canada’s leading Ottawa Valley stepdancers. Christine Carr (tap) and Sarah Uddin (tap) are the other dancers in the group. The dancers were backed by a group of world class musicians, Alyth McCormack (vocals), Rob Becker (Bass), Jeffrey McLarnon (Guitars), Jake Charron (Piano), Shane Cook (Fiddle), and Kirk White (Percussion). The rapport between the members of the group is really something special. It’s not often that you find such a strong connection.
Subculture certainly did their homework about the group… the theater itself was rearranged so that the group had an area in the middle of the audience to dance. This setup was ideal for a dance performance, it gave the everyone in the theater a clear view of everything that was going on.
My only complaint is that ceiling was a wee bit low (i.e. fashionably low), and if the dancers jumped any higher, they might have brought down the roof!
Cara is a native of New York City, and many of her friends and family came to the show. She studied with the widely respected Irish stepdance teacher Donny Golden. She and her sister, Jean Butler, each won numerous national titles and regional titles, and placed well in international competitions.
It was very touching to hear how exited she was that her “Golden family” was at the show to watch her dance. I spoke with many people about how they knew Cara from grammar school, or had been in a dance class with her as a child, and about how they made an effort to support her and her group by coming to see the show.
Children from local Irish Dance schools were invited to come sit at stage level to watch the show, and they were enraptured t with the music and dancing.
“To get a chance to see professional dancers who really love to dance is invaluable to young people who are already immersed in the tradition.”
As soon as the lights rose at the intermission, all the kids got up and started dancing in front of the stage themselves.
During the second half of the show, they all spontaneously got up and started dancing while the group was on stage performing.
After a few minutes however, Jean Butler had to nicely remove them from the dance floor so the show could continue. My brother Bram, who is an Ottawa Valley stepdancer himself, has been greatly influenced by Jon and Nathan his whole life. I saw the same light in all the kids eyes that Bram gets when he watches great dancers.
We will be seeing/hearing more of the Stepcrew in the coming years.
There is something about the energy of the dancers that makes you want to dance.
“The StepCrew is a brilliant visual and musical display of the most talented dancers I’ve seen. It’s refreshing to see a performance of this style based on pure ability as the dancers are certainly nothing less than virtuosic in their respective styles. The StepCrew does not simply draw their audience in, they take them by the hand and remind us what dance is meant to be about – fun.”
– Paddy Moloney, The Chieftains