Like Walking Into A Shirley Temple Convention (Documentary Review: “Jig”)

Jig is a surprisingly emotional and nail biting documentary about a handful of amazingly dedicated children, teens and young adults across the globe as they train to compete in the 40th Irish Dancing World Championship, held in March 2010 in Glasgow, Scotland.


SnapShot Plot

When director, Sue Bourne learned that the often maligned world of Irish Dance was in fact an all-consuming passion for thousands of aspiring young dancers the world over, she knew she had all the elements for a great story.  The documentary follows months of painstaking training, rehearsals, classes, physical therapy and sheer sacrifice among several kids and teens, some from Ireland and the rest from such far-flung locales as Holland, Siberia, and the wilds of New York City.  A standout for me was young Brogan McCay from Ireland, whose fresh-faced innocence and enthusiasm, paired with a touching sense of gratitude for the sacrifices her family has made so that she can pursue her dream. . . well, when that little girl sits on her bed and talks to the camera with her lilting brogue and eyes lit up, it brought a lump to this Baby Boomer’s throat!  On top of that, Brogan is a little phenom in white knee socks and a wig (yes, wig…more on that in a bit.) And then there’s Joe, the American teenager whose family basically surrendered to his consuming passion and talent in a field of dance they knew nothing about; but what this young man does is nothing short of amazing.  And then there’s the little charmer of a boy who you could pick up with one hand, whose talent, emotion and sincerity is straight from the heart.  And the young women from Russia who came to Irish dancing as senior citizens – relatively speaking – who make up in grim discipline what they may lack in natural talent and years of practice, who are scolded by their coach for not enjoying themselves more!

At the World Championship, it’s incredible how many contestants have arrived to compete in a rigorous series of short dance routines.  That’s when the wigs come out.  Forget the long flowing red haired lassies you recall from Riverdance.  This is Kiddie Pageant Meets Shirley Temple as Heidi….. apparently these exaggerated, curly Marie Antoinette wigs and short bedazzled milkmaid dresses are de rigueur in the Irish Step Dance world. And even though I had no clue as to interpreting the scoreboards, it didn’t matter because it was written all over the faces of the dancers and their families and coaches in the audience.  By the way, according to the film, there’s no prize money attached to winning at World.  Now that’s what I call Passion.


Parting Shot

Even though there were moments when I felt I was watching a reality competition show on Bravo, I’d be lying if I didn’t fess up to shedding a few tears on behalf of these kids whose entire lives revolve around this dance tradition.  Speaking of which:  for a documentary that aimed at lifting the veil of mystery surrounding step dancing, it would have been great if Sue Bourne had provided some history of Irish Dance, or at least a video montage of how this unique Celtic art form has evolved through the centuries.  The film also makes some socio-economic points in its depiction of a few families who are clearly struggling for the money to finance their child in this expensive endeavor, making some tough parenting choices which are sure to be controversial.  Basically, the film works because it’s a universal tale…..about Following Your Dream. . . Now where did I leave my wig?

Jig is presently streaming on Netflix.

Norma’s Streaming Picks is proud to announce squatters rights on a fantastic site for Baby Boomers, Midcentury/Modern as well as right here at home. I invite you to go there for more great content!

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YouTube  Trailer Courtesy of:



  • Annie says:

    Hey Miss Norma, I’ve done the Jig many times, but I wasn’t dancing. Hope all is well, doing fine here — if they need a wig call me. LOL.

  • Giovanna says:

    I saw this when it was playing in one (only one) movie theatre in NYC… with my Irish-dance-obsessed friend who taught me very much about that whole world back when we were in middle school. And the theater was full of dancers and dance moms so it was quite an experience. Lots of cheering and tearing in that room!

    • Norma says:

      So glad it touched a cord, Giovanna! There was plenty of cheering and tearing in my living room too. I’m sure my wig is around here somewhere……..

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