Who to give a more comprehensive and clear window into the world and emotional life of Irish stepdancers on and off the stage than another acclaimed Irish stepdancer? Director and creator Breandan de Gallai, a veteran dancer and principal who toured with the show Riverdance, is at the helm of the play Noctu.
Although modern dance is woven throughout Noctu, the pieces that center on traditional Irish stepdancing are the loveliest. In one scene, a dancer struggling to keep pace with her peers during a rehearsal fears she’s just not as talented as they are. In another piece, a male dancer flares at peers who berate him for being effeminate because he loves to dance. Principal dancer Peta Anderson, tall, lithe and deceptively delicate is a lovely and constant focal point. Gifted with exceptional timing, she appears to hover lightly in the air before smashing her feet to the floor in unison with the rest of the cast during hardshoe dances, the soles of her feet themselves becoming instruments of percussion.
Sexes separate for vignettes. In one particularly moving sequence, the women clad in angelic white dresses dance alone; their faces covered with white masks seem to be controlled by a puppeteer. The men in turn go it alone. Clad in warrior black, stripes of paint smearing their faces, they gracefully leap, twirl, stomp and bash the ground in unison. The primal need and love for dance is palpable.
The dancers do strip down to their underwear, but the effect is less effective than distracting. In Noctu, the energy and emotion exhibited by the dancers when executing the steps and moves is revealing enough.
Irish Repertory Theater
132 West 22nd Street
Through October 2, 2011