The word “Riverdance” isn’t really used, but that’s what the documentary Jig puts under the microscope — the story of the 40th Irish Dancing World Championships, and specifically the leg-splaying competitions between certain youth subsets. To that end, there’s some absolutely fantastic talent on display in this ambling but only passably inquisitive nonfiction film, meaning that those inclined to like this sort of thing (those who might have a TiVo season pass for TLC’s Toddlers & Tiaras, say) will find in this plenty to like. General audiences, however, may feel a bit danced out.
Unfolding in the final months leading up to the aforementioned March, 2010, competition in Glasgow, Jig charts a number of highly skilled young folk dancers — precious few of whom have any connection to the rapid step-dancing genre’s link to Irish culture — and loosely pairs off some of them who will eventually be competing against one another. The film is comparable to but not quite as engaging as the recent documentary Make Believe: The Battle To Become the World’s Best Teen Magician. The subjects in Jig all put in an equal amount of hard work and dedication, but the latter movie has significantly better guides, if you will, and a sharper focus. It succeeds in eliciting information and perspectives from its young would-be magicians, whereas most of Jig director Sue Bourne’s interview chats, while perfectly amiable, are less revelatory. They do less to connect the kids’ passion for dance to the different ways it makes them feel, and how they see it eventually integrated into their adult lives.
Watching excellence in almost any field, and the pursuit of the same, can be a fortifying and rewarding experience. And it’s certainly interesting to see the wide variety of personalities (a group of Russians, an adopted Sri Lankan teen living in Holland) drawn to this extremely difficult and competitive discipline. But Jig doesn’t spend a whole lot of time elucidating the actual steps of Irish dance (perhaps by design, as one judge later says it’s a highly subjective art form), and the movie unfurls as a haze of practice and performance footage — again, frequently impressive — with neither much contextual mooring nor ambition in staging. It’s just kids dancing, and competing. Some eventually win, and some will lose — as often happens in life. For the full, original review, from ShockYa, click here. (Screen Media, PG, 93 minutes)