Boston College Irish Dance formed a kaleidoscope of patterns on the stage, first in a perfect phalanx, then seamlessly transitioning to form concentric circles in homage to the arena of the Hunger Games. After an eight-minute routine as mesmerizing as the mockingjay’s haunting song, the dancers stomped their last step and broke the spell. The stunned audience rose to its feet in thunderous applause, and BCID team knew that the odds were definitely in its favor.
“The crowd was in it for the whole dance,” said Madeline Jacob, LSOE ’16 and captain of BCID of the non-stop energy of last week’s annual ALC Showdown. “There was really no silent moment for them. It was really cool. Immediately when we finished they all stood up, which was crazy. And even the dancers stood up, which was such a huge compliment for us.”
Last week, BC’s most talented dance groups performed at a sold-out Conte Forum and celebrated the best of the school’s student dancing. With two titles at stake, BCID took home the coveted dance title of Showdown winners while, Presenting Africa to U (PATU) brought home the cultural dance award. Each team dedicated its schedule toward intense preparation for this showcase event, and its work paid off with highly coveted titles.
BCID is led by co-captains Madeline Jacob and Betsy Hughes, MCAS ’16. With 26 members—25 girls and one boy—they practice three nights a week for a total of 10 hours on Brighton Campus. This was its second year competitively participating at Showdown after showcasing in the past. In 2014, BCID competed for the title and gave the now-senior captains a taste at what a title could feel like.
“We didn’t have a theme that year, two years ago,” Jacob said of its first competitive performance. “We didn’t have a lot of experience with the event. During our freshman year there was a part of the dance that got the crowd engaged and people were energized afterwards. From that moment on they wanted to win.”
Siobhan Dougherty, MCAS ’17, cut the music to give its theme, the Hunger Games, a collective, exciting feel. The serious tone of the theme challenged the dancers to work on their facial expressions. The assistant choreographers Aine McGovern, MCAS ’17, and Bridget TeeKing, MCAS ’16, helped head choreographer Doughtery give this dance its unique touch.
“[Facial expression] was not easy for most people on the team,” Hughes said. “We are not used to theatrically performing. Usually for Irish dance we smile, but this dance was serious and we had to look angry at some of the parts. We made everyone look in the mirror and make themselves look angry.”
As the dance began each member gave it his or her all. Intense preparation, excellent music, and passion drove them all into a crowd-engaging performance.
The win will add more pressure to them for next year, the captains concluded. They credit their team’s unique determination for the win—they could see visible improvement between the first and third hours of their practices. The team has only existed for nine years, and Hughes feels that the win will help it be taken seriously.
BCID’s main event each year is its Spring Showcase, during which the group performs 20 dances. Additionally, throughout the year it dances on campus, at cultural events, at a Red Sox game, and, especially near St. Patrick’s day, around Boston.
PATU, BC’s only African dance troupe, won the cultural dance award. Kadeajah Goslin, the group’s captain and LSOE ’16, helped bring the small but determined dance group to its first Showdown award. PATU was created in 1996 and focuses on Western African, Caribbean, and African diaspora styles.
This group of nine dancers comprises the smallest number, but with five seniors there was a special emphasis on bringing back the title this year. Like BCID, PATU has one male dancer.
PATU performs year-round at BC with a recruitment and try-out process after the fall Student Involvement Fair. It also performs around Boston throughout the year at locations including Rosie’s Place, a shelter for battered women, and other colleges like BU, MIT, and Brandeis.
Come January, PATU began to practice every day in anticipation of Showdown.
“Everyone is very dedicated, there is a lot of hard work,” Goslin said. “A lot of pain, blood sweat and tears, but it is worth it once the show is here.”
Photos Courtesy of Zoe Zhao