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The Independent Critic

Brogan McCay, John Whitehurst and other dancers
Sue Bourne
Rated PG
93 Mins.
Screen Media


 "Jig" Review 
There's something to be said for a documentary that has the guts to avoid unnecessary melodrama and trumped up conflict in favor of the real story, a story of passion and talent and incredibly hard work for just a few tense minutes on stage.

Sue Bourne's Jig is an energetic and inspired story of the 40th Irish Dancing World Championships that were held in March 2010 in Glasgow, Scotland. 3,000 Dancers along with their families and teachers from around the globe descended upon Glasgow for an incredibly exhausting and drama filled week of wigs, make up, fake tans, diamantes and dresses, many costing thousands of pounds, while competing for the prized world titles.

An Official Selection at 2011 HotDocs and a 2011 Top Ten Audience Favorite at that festival, Jig opens in a limited nationwide run on June 17th, 2011 in Los Angeles, New York, Boston, Chicago and Toronto with expansion to follow.

While Jig centers around a competition, award-winning director Sue Bourne unrelentingly celebrates each of the nine dancers whose stories unfold on the big screen.

There's 11-year-olds Brogan, from Derry in Northern Ireland, and Julia, from New York. Brogan has beaten Julia multiple times, but rather than play up the drama or hype up the conflict, Bourne instead allows the duo's mutual respect and healthy competitiveness to shine through brightly. Both dancers will be dancing in the Worlds, and Julia is determined to beat Brogan once and for all.

There's 21-year-olds Claire, Simona and Suzanne, a dynamic trio who have grown up together on the circuit and who seemingly swap first place finishes yet, for the most part, have also been lifelong friends.

There's a ceilidh team from Moscow, a team that started late in life yet a team that has blossomed impressively. Of course, there are also guys represented with 11-year-old John, 17-year-old Sandun and 16-year-old Joe. John has dealt with bullying because of his passion for dance, Joe has moved across the country while Sandun, with one of the most compelling stories, is a Sri Lankan born young man growing up with his adoptive Dutch family and using dance to stay out of trouble and to deal with his life journey.

Indeed, the "Irish" Jig is a worldwide passion with characters in Jig coming from Ireland, Holland, Britain, the United States and Russia.

While Jig isn't so much about the conflicts that could potentially unfold, it is very much about these individuals and their passion, dedication and discipline. Somewhat reminiscent of Andy Milkis's wonderful 5...6...7...8, Jig captures instructors and trainers who practically double as drill sergeants, parents who have compromised and risked time and money to support their children and,  of course, these young people who have often forsaken the normalcy of childhood in favor of a life on the road.

Those without an interest in dance may find Jig a bit tiresome, as Bourne very much focuses her energy on the world of dancing and not so much on the stories contained with each dancer. While each dancer certainly has a story and Bourne gives us enough to at least care about them, the focus of the film is very much on the actual competitive dancing and its rather amazing world.

Perhaps better than most films, Jig truly captures the diversity of the world of Irish Dancing, not just in terms of ethnicity but in terms of talent and personality and life experiences. Some of our young people are bubbling over extroverts, while others simply blossom the minute they hit the dance floor. There are some within this story who seem practically born to dance, while others have learned to shine through thanks to years and years of extraordinary discipline. The beauty of Jig is that it celebrates all its dancers with equal passion.

Jig slows down a bit once the actual competition begins, with moments of hyped up suspense and drama taking hold in the form of slo-mo shots and unnecessarily stylized editing. Fortunately, these moments don't distract from an otherwise compelling and involving documentary. Kudos for Patrick Doyle's spirited and sensitive original music that nicely complements the film's dance and human elements.

For more information on Jig, visit the film's official website and be sure to "like" the film on its Facebook page. Watch for the film at a theater near you, and if you're in one of the film's opening cities be sure to check it out.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic