Documentaries are always an intriguing viewing. Better ones follow those that are related to the topic of the documentary in some capacity and in most cases characters emerge from these very real people and very real settings and events. Such is the case with Jig a documentary that explores the world of competitive Irish dancing. Director Sue Bourne has shone a light on the super competitive world I never even knew existed.
When one says Irish dancing I would imagine most would immediately have visions of River-dance spring to mind much like I did. While that may be the most widely known form of Irish Dancing its far from the only. Jig introduces one to the world of competitive Irish dancing. Jig effortlessly takes a topic that most never really have a passing interest in and makes it thoroughly engrossing. Introducing the viewer to several age groups and participants that participate in the 40th Irish Dancing World Championships or as its most commonly referred to in the film “The Worlds” in Glasgow.
The film follows several entrants though the focus seems to follow two girls in the 10-11 group who seemingly couldn’t come from more different backgrounds, not to mention countries. The two girls, one 10 year old Brogan McCay from Derry Northern Ireland and appearing to come from more of a working class background taking group dancing lessons is on her way to her first Worlds. On the opposite end of the spectrum is the privately taught 10 year old Julia O’Rourke from New York. Julia observes McCay from afar watching her videos on YouTube and learning from her moves as she is seemingly always beating her.
On the really radical other side of the spectrum is Joe Bitter whose family relocated from Los Angeles to Birmingham, UK so that he could train under John Carey at the Carey Academy. Carey could be considered the Michael Jordan of the Irish Dancing world having won just about every accolade possible. There are several other age groups from Holland, Russia and other parts of Britain that are also followed and the doc does a good job of giving each one its deserved time.
It all ultimately climaxes at the worlds where all the participants are dressed in very expensive elaborate dress, wigs and of course the requisite soft and hard shoes for the two programs each of them participate in to move to the next round. This is where Jig really shines as even with its quick 93 minute run time you’ve spent enough time with each of the dancers that you begin to pick favorites and live on the edge of your seat with them, their teachers & their family as they compete and then wait for a panel of judges to give their scores. Said scores are read in rather dramatic fashion allowing waves of confusion, via quick math, fear and elation to wash over the various contestants as they learn if the last year of training and the sacrifices that come with it paid off. Unfortunately not everyone can be a winner, but in this case Jig takes a topic I wasn’t aware of and makes it both engrossing and entertaining and comes out the clear winner in the end.
I give Jig 4 “Who is Pixie Lott?” out of 5
Jig is currently playing in Los Angeles, New York, Boston, Chicago and Toronto and expanding to other markets.
By John Coovert