Violinist Duncan Wickel sometimes began with a soulful melody that tightened into a reel or a hornpipe or a bluegrass fiddle tune. In his solos he took off into unimaginable cascades of sound and song. With bowing, plucking, rubbing, and tickling, he could turn the violin into a whole orchestra.
The format for Celtic Tap was that of a simple revue — nothing fancy to detract from what these virtuosos could do. Beginning with a tune or a rhythm, one of them would open out into an extended solo, or engage one of his companions in a challenge. Call-and-response must be one of the oldest forms of show-off dancing, and Devine, Jennings, and Wickel were experts at picking up on one another’s ideas and adding new complexities to throw back. Devine also paid tribute to dance history with his adaptations of a broom dance and a sand dance.
I thought a lot of this program was rehearsed, and I missed the extra excitement, the surprise of discovery, that comes with improvised rhythm dance. In the last few numbers, when Devine summoned up his most imaginative material, the territory seemed more uncharted. But it could be they were so in tune with each other’s instincts that they were making it up all along.
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