This Friday, June 17, JIG: The Story of The Irish Dancing World Championships opens in movie theaters in New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago and Toronto. The 90-minute feature-length documentary captures the story of the competition's 40th year.
Director Sue Bourne discussed the process leading to her filming the stories behind just some of the stories behind the thousands of dancers, families and teachers that converged on Glascow, Scotland in March 2010 for seven days of intense dance competition.
I love the opening shots of the documentary, where you get so tight in the action you see the sawdust that is kicked up by the dancers' steps, and the hairspray being applied to the wig. How early in the development process of the project did you realize you wanted to capture moments like that and with such nuanced detail?
We always knew that it would be great to capture the dancing in wonderful close up detail. However at the world competition we were very limited in terms of what we could do. This was a real, live competition and the ruling body did not want our filming to interfere with the actual competition or influence the judges in any way. So we always had to film from behind the eyeline of the judges - which of course meant we could not get Matrix style multicamera stop frames or multi camera close up coverage. In the end we had five HD cameras and one of those was able to do slow motion - but we only had that camera on the last day. The other interesting thing is just how well slow motion does or does not capture Irish Dancing. It is all about sound and speed so for me the three minutes on Joe Bitters' feet are astonishing - and there is nothing tricksy about that, just astonishing footwork captured on camera as it happens.
You interviewed the dancers, the parents, the coaches--of those three who proved the hardest to establish a rapport/gain trust in order to garner the level of candor you got in these interviews?
We spent eight months doing the research and getting to know people before we did any filming. So by the time we did film with them they knew Ruth [Reid] - the associate producer - and I pretty well. They were all therefore pretty relaxed when the cameraman and sound man came along to film with them. Possibly the teachers were the most wary because they know the outside world looks rather askance at the wigs and the make up and the dresses. But noone at all refused to take part in the film. If anything we were seriously spoilt for choice. Everyone I think was pretty excited about us filming them.