came from Trinity
Irish Dance Company, America's premiere Irish dance company,
due to appear in Colorado during their Spring 2002 tour. Would
two dancers from Heritage
Irish Stepdancers of Denver like to appear on stage with
Trinity? Ariel Bennett, TCRG, had a hard time deciding which
of her many deserving students to give such a wonderful chance
to, and finally asked Amber and Kinsey McNevin if they'd like
to take the opportunity on. The answer was "of course,
yes! Yes!" They waited in terrible suspense until
their mother said that they had her permission and danced
around in glee.
girls excitedly prepared with extra practice. Amber (10) and
Kinsey (6) were thrilled and nervous before the appearance
of Trinity in Beaver Creek, a beautiful ski resort high in
the Rocky Mountains. They agonized over the weather reports.
What if it snowed? They worried about what steps to perform.
What if they made a mistake in front of the audienceor
even worse, the Trinity dancers? They practiced harder.
too long, the girls and their mother Wendy McNevin (who teaches
and dances with Heritage as well) packed up their school costumes
and dancing gear, and trekked up to the mountains surrounding
for a late lunch (or was it an early dinner?) in Silverthorn,
the girls were stopped by a nice lady who asked about the
curlers in Amber's hair (the famous Blue Medusa!). Were they
Irish dancers? She was an Irish dancer too. She was also on
her way up to Beaver Creek for the performance, she told them,
and was looking forward to seeing them dance.
this made the girls even more excited and nervous. Someone
had recognized them as Irish stepdancers!
so nervous for them!" Wendy McNevin
in Beaver Creek, they shivered past the beautiful shops and
the lovely ice skating rink to the Vilar Center for the Arts.
Arriving, they were escorted down to the dressing rooms and
greeted by tall, smiling, red-haired Maureen Shea, one of
Trinity's rehearsal directors and a Denver native. They gazed
in awe at costumes on racks and crowded makeup mirrors as
members of the company began getting ready.
so crowded! I wish we could give you your own space in here
instead of having to squish into the corner," lamented
Maureen. "Why don't you put your things in this corner,
and you can wait in the green room where there's more room?
There's things to drink and eat in there if you want something."
exclaimed over the girls as they walked between the green
room, the dressing rooms, and backstage. The girls watched
as dancers put on makeup and
the black garments worn under most of their costumes.
found them again. "We're about to rehearse one of our
numbers on stage, do you want to come watch?" Both girls
nodded, eyes shining.
Smith, principal dancer of the Company, and some of the
women were going over the number Leeson Street, dressed
in athletic shoes and other street clothes. "This will
be only the second time they've done this one," whispered
Michael Carr, the incredibly
busy and energetic company manager, on his way past. "Street
dancers! I need all the Street dancers!" Liz Carroll's
fiddle played over the loudspeakers as the musicians (Ned
Folkerth, Christopher Layer, and Brendan O'Shea) played along.
The dancers went through their steps and stopped, talking
over various problems, and then started again.
crouched in the wings, watching and listening.
just doesn't sound quite right," they heard the musicians
talking to the sound engineer. "Can we do that again
and see if we can fix the eq?" The dancers looked out
into the house and asked if they should do it again as well.
"You don't have to, but we'll do the whole thing for
you if you want to," was the reply. The dancers went
through it again.
dancers chatted a bit with the girls in the wings. "This
looks great for only the second time you've done this one,"
commented Wendy McNevin to Maureen Shea.
feel a lot better about it now!" smiled Maureen. "The
first time you perform a number you're always a little nervous."
The dancers looked at the list of the show numbers on the
tables set up in the wings, ready for their quick costume
change pieces and to hold bottles of waterand the tank
of oxygen. Beaver Creek is 8,100 ft. / 2,469 meters above
sea level at the base elevation. One of the dangers of going
high into the Rocky Mountains suddenly is altitude sickness,
with symptoms of oxygen deprivation.
known all day that this is going to be tough because of the
altitude!" one of the dancers told them. "Maureen's
been telling us how to cope. We've been drinking water all
day for two days, and some of us had headaches yesterday,
but I think we're ready."
Morris will be rehearsing you in just a little bit,"
Maureen called on her way off stage.
smiling dancer with chic short hair called back to them over
her shoulder. "I'll be back at seven, okay? I'll meet
you back here!" and waved as she disappeared into the
hallway to the green room. They had half an hour to wait.
girls trailed the dancers back to the dressing rooms, they
bumped into another tiny dancer in the black, burgandy, and
green school uniform of The Reed School of Irish DanceMegan
"Mimi" Nary, from neighboring Breckinridge, had
arrived to take part as well. The girls eyed each other, trying
to decide whether to be shy or not. Wendy suggested that they
show Mimi the backstage area, and they raced off together.
After showing Mimi the backstage, they returned to warm up,
change their shoes and get into their green, gold, and white
was time to rehearse. The dancers were warming up on the dimly-lit
stage, stretching out, standing in lunges and going through
yoga moves, testing out the stage. Ryan Marie Morris, one
of Trinity's dance captains, came and led them onto the stage.
you guys, now you're going to do one step. Let's see,"
said Ryan, measuring the three girls up. "Kinsey and
Mimi, you're about the same height, so you'll dance together
in the third number, and, Amber, you'll dance in the first
one. You're each going to do one step, one right foot and
one left foot. Do you know what step you're going to do?"
All three girls nodded. As Ryan showed the girls where they'd
be standing and when they'd go onstage ("Who's on that
side of the stage to help Mimi? Sinead?"), the dancers
gathered round to watch.
so cute!" a dancer whispered to the proud moms. Amber
practiced her skip threes onto the stage ("Don't start
'til five-two-three!"), did her step as the dancers clapped
time and Ryan lilted Rakes of Mallow for her to practice
to, and skipped back off. She did it twice and felt confident
she was ready. Then the two younger girls practiced in their
turn as the dancers once again clapped time. After they were
done rehearsing, they watched wide-eyed as the musicians worked
with the dancers on some body percussion moves
for the Curran Event number.
the dressing rooms again, the three young dancers watched
as the dancers finished their transformation from pretty young
women you might meet on any street to the polished performers
of the Trinity Irish Dance Company.
Carr took care of last minute business, and asked for the
three dancers' names and dance schools. Mark Howard, artistic
director of the Company, spoke to individual dancers and crew
and seemed to be everywhere at once. Crew members wandered
purposefully around backstage on mysterious errands.
found costume pieces, glued their socks up, talked over how
they'd cover for the hole left by the sick dancer who was
currently lying on the green room sofa with a vaporizer by
her head, suffering from severe bronchitis. They retrieved
solo dresses from their black lemon-slice bags and set
them on the tables backstage, set costume gauntlets, tiaras,
and collars, added a little more eye-liner, wrapped black
tape around ghillies with poodle-socked toes poking through
the hallway getting their shoes on and curlers out, Darren
Smith had some kind words to say and took a picture with them.
A musician said hello; Michael Carr stopped with some encouraging
about as ready as they were going to get!
was scary!" Amber McNevin
began to fill the stage with fog. The dancers gathered on
stage, sweeping the girls up with them. From backstage at
the Vilar Center, you can't really hear what's going on out
in the audience unless you're out on the stage, but the lady
in the box office had told the girls that the show was completely
sold out. They even
planned to put chairs in the back of the theatre for people,
so the nervous girls knew the auditorium was completely full.
for a picture of the girls with a couple of the dancers turned
into a company photo. Unfortunately, the fog made a picture
in the dark backstage almost impossible! No matterthe
three additions to the Trinity Company are in the front row
in a fog not unlike the ones you'll find on winter evenings
the last picture allowed to be taken until after the show,
as it's Trinity's policy not to allow photographs during the
limbering up and double-checking costumes, began to get a
little antsy as the minutes crept by, and show time came and
went with the house held. "Can we get this show on the
road?" the girls heard a dancer exclaim.
it was time! A voice-over announced
the presence of the three local dancers with the company,
giving their names and schools. Ryan came and shepherded Amber
to her place in the wings, taking Mimi across the stage to
wait on the other side of the stage. The lights went down,
the curtain silently moved apart, and the lights came up and
the music for the opening number, Johnny, swept the
dancers out on stage. Wendy McNevin watched tensely from the
dark wings, waiting for Amber's turn in the spotlight.
began counting Amber's first eight, and the dancers out on
stage formed a horseshoe around the stage as Amber danced
out into place. As she began her step, the company raised
their hands over their heads and clapped time for her, calling
out encouragement and cheering her on. As she danced back
off the stage, and Trinity dancers swept forward for the next
section of Johnny, the audience applauded for Amber.
was scary!" Amber said breathlessly to her
mom backstage. Wendy hugged her and everyone crowded round
to tell her how well she'd done.
company ran off stage from Johnny and the dancers in
the second number went on, it was obvious that the altitude
was taking its tolla dancer motioned frantically to
Wendy McNevin, gasping, and it took a moment to realize that
she needed help with her solo dress zipper. As Blackthorn
ended, some went right for the oxygen, and many grabbed for
number, the brilliant and flashy Stepabout, was Kinsey
and Mimi's time in the spotlight. As applause died for the
second number, the music began for the third.
the dancers, Katie Wright, went onstagebut in a moment
was back, limping badly, face showing obvious pain. She stumbled
into the wings, and Michael Carr and other crew members immediately
went to her. Out on stage, the number went on, but the crew
was backstage busy trying to help Wright. Mark Howard pounded
down the corridor within seconds, and went straight to Wright
without needing to ask where she was.
did you see?" whispered Kinsey, tugging at Wendy's arm.
I saw," replied her mother. "We'll just stay out
of their way. I'm sure they'll come to get you soon for your
turn." Moments later, a dancer came to take Kinsey to
and Mimi danced skip threes out onstage, a soft "awww"
rose up from the audience. The two tiny dancers went through
their step, and danced off to applause from the audience and
a hug from Mom. As the modern
dance-influenced Hibernia began, dancers congratulated
all three girls for doing so well.
for the girls, the Vilar Center wings are wide enough that
Carr allowed them to remain backstage, to watch the show.
"Just stay behind these tables, okay?" asked Carr.
"I don't want you to get run over between numbers!"
Wendy had to remind the fascinated girlsas the numbers
flew by, they would sometimes forget, inching forward to watch
the beautiful choreography and the pristine form of the Trinity
at their feet! Look how high they are up on their toes!"
they would whisper.
ran out from the green room to say that Wright would be able
to dance hardshoe numbers, but not the softshoe. There were
quick consultations on now covering two open spots
in the choreographies.
later, Howard came backstage again and said that Wright would
be out completely. He ran quickly to the other side of the
stage to confer with dancers on that side as well. "Oh
no, Mommy," whispered Kinsey. "Poor dancer!"
agreed Amber. "What a bummer."
green room, the dancers commiserated about the effect the
altitude was having on their bodies. "I've never danced
this badly in my entire life!" groaned one.
the lack of oxygen," agreed Darren Smith. "You sort
of hit this wall, and you just don't have anything left in
McNevin told them that the show still looked great. Everyone
said they were glad.
Wright, one of Trinity's founding members, was receiving sympathy
from her chair, a bag of ice on her ankle. "I know what
it is, this happened before," she explained. "I
just went right over on my ankle. I am so bummed."
(A week later, we heard from Michael Carr that she had a broken
toe and sprained ankle.) Dancers with a moment came to give
sympathy and a little company to the two downed company members.
asked her mother to tell Wright that she was sorry Wright
was hurt. Wendy encouraged her to tell Wright herself, but
she was too shy. Overhearing, Wright smiled and thanked Kinsey
for her sympathy anyway.
Carr told a funny story about Mark Howard helping him choose
a new face plate for Carr's cell phone ("Madonna! Here's
one with Madonna's face on it!"), leaving face plates
littered all over the counter and Carr apologizing to the
sales staff for the mess. Affectionate laughter peppered the
and Mimi shared a chair in the wings to watch the rest of
the show, the two of them small enough to kneel side by side
on the seat. "I have to smile every time I see them like
that," a dancer exclaimed.
soon, the last number, the Trinity trademark dance Celtic
Thunder, arrived. In red and black dresses, the dancers
performed the choreography that significantly changed the
look and direction of Irish stepdancing in 1988. (The
next to last number, The Dawn, won the company the
gold medal at World's in 1998.)
Kinsey and Mimi went out on stage for the last time to take
their bows amidst thunderous applause and shouts from the
audience and company members. As a loud rock and roll beat
danced company members off the stage, Ryan Morris, Patricia
Finnegan, and Jennine McConellogue took the hands of the girls
and invited them to come
sign autographs with them out in the lobby.
members bent to say how much they liked their steps, and the
nice lady who had stopped to talk with them in the restaurant
in Silverthorn even asked them to sign her Trinity music CD.
thanked both girls as they headed backstage again, and went
to what should have been a well-deserved night's restbut
instead, Trinity was packing up, hitting the road and driving
to Boulder (a two hour drive) for their next day of appearances
and shows. The next day included a school performance and
a master class session for one of Denver's Irish stepdancing
headed their car back down the mountain, Amber and Kinsey
chattered excitedly about their experiences and about Trinity's
show... and then abruptly fell asleep.
said in her MP3 clip, the Trinity dancers are some of the
best in the worldbut their amazing dancing abilities
are only the basis of this reputation. Their status as "some
of the best in the world" also rests on their poise,
their maturity, and their art.
founder and artistic director of the company, has been lauded
repeatedly by dance critics and lovers all over the world
for his vision, insight, and love for the pure art of Irish
stepdancing. One of the first to actively develop Irish stepdancing
as a dance form fully on the world stage along with modern,
ballet, tap and other ethnic dance forms, it's long been well
known by dance critics all over the world that today's modern
Irish shows would not exist as they do today without the groundbreaking
work of Trinity Irish Dance Company.
is often faced with interviewers who point out that the dance
shows have resembled Trinity numbers in place since the late
80's, and who ask why the non-profit company might not want
to cash in on the wave of Irish stepdancing popularity.
whose dream was of Irish stepdancing taking its place alongside
serious dance artforms like ballet and modern, would probably
reply that they have done soby being able to present
serious dance shows that push the boundaries of the form to
appreciative audiences around the world.
well-known that Howard has always striven to instill a firm
sense of respect in his dancersrespect for themselves,
for other dancers, and for the danceformas well as self-confidence
and modesty. (Many Irish stepdancing champions are also high
achievers in other areas of their lives. Something about the
artform instills self-discipline, high standards and motivation
in a dancer's life.)
Academy students are taught that it's the journey that matters
more than the trophies or medals. It's quite safe to say that
the Trinity Irish Dance Company dancers, whether they came
from Trinity Academy or not, have the same sort of ethic.
A more gracious, poised, and fully professional company you'll
never find, yet the members of the company have an average
age of 21, give or take a few months.
Morris, one of Trinity's dance captains, was asked how it
felt to be a role model at such a young age. Her reaction,
captured in the MP3, can't reflect the surprised and rather
stunned look on her face at the question.
group of role models for young dancers like Amber and Kinsey
and Mimi, I can't imagine.
editor: Louise Owen