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STEPPING OUT
TRINITY DANCE COMPANY ADDS NEW ELEMENTS TO IRISH TRADITIONS

PREVIEW

WHAT: Trinity Irish Dance Company

WHEN: 8 tonight (preperformance talk at 7 p.m.)

WHERE: UB Center for the Arts Mainstage Theater, North Campus, Amherst

TICKETS: $19 to $25

INFO: 652-ARTS

Trinity Irish Dance Company founder/artistic director Mark Howard calls the style of dance his company performs "progressive" Irish dance.

With lightning-fast footwork, expressive upper body articulation and dramatic choreography, Howard's style of Irish dance has catapulted Trinity into the dance's mainstream, helping spawn commercial reactions such as the highly successful "Riverdance."

Tonight, Trinity's company of 20-plus dancers and musicians makes its Western New York debut in the University at Buffalo's Center for the Arts Mainstage Theater with a program of 11 works that embodies the company's motto: "It's everything you'd expect and like nothing you'd imagine."

Since its founding in 1991 as an outgrowth of Chicago-based Trinity Irish Dance Academy, the company has provided a performing haven for some of the most talented Irish step dancers in the world, allowing them to continue their dance careers and to expand the vocabulary of Irish dance and, according to Howard, "push the envelope of the art form."

That's something the Emmy Award-winning Howard has strived for from the company's beginning, incorporating performance lessons learned from numerous television appearances such as on NBC's "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson" and others as well as the blending in other styles of movement into his choreography, and expanding the pool of choreographers that work with the company.

Trinity's program opens with "Out of the Woods," choreographed by Howard, which makes creative use of the stage and is set to music by Different Drums of Ireland, whose music is said to marry the Catholic and Protestant drums of Ireland into a deafening sound. Also on the first half of the program are Howard's "Step About," a work in which the dancers show off their abilities in a game of one-upmanship; "Johnny," the work created for the company's 1991 appearance on "The Tonight Show"; the modern-dance-influenced "Curran Event," choreographed by Sean Curran; and a special version of Howard's "Just Shannon" featuring a guest appearance by newly crowned World Irish Dance Champion 11-year-old Kevinah Dargan of Williamsville.

Kevinah, a student at Buffalo's Rince Na Tiarna School of Irish Dance, will perform a "hard shoe" solo in the piece.

The program's second half will include such works as Howard's "Treble Jig," a stripped-down traditional dance work where the virtuosity of the dancers is showcased; "Goddess," another work by Curran, this time infusing East Indian movement with percussive Irish dance; and the award-winning "The Dawn," choreographed by Howard and British choreographer Richard Griffin, which is danced without any shoe taps in the "ceili" tradition of group dancing, only turbocharged according to Howard with fast movement, blind turns and lots of intricate lines and formations.

The production also features three live musicians singing, playing percussion instruments and several Irish pipes augmented by recorded soundtracks and a bevy of colorful costumes from traditional to contemporary.

The company is on the cutting edge of Irish dance, and tonight's program is sure to take you places you never thought Irish dance could go.