Gael Force

Celtic and dance companies in the Riverdance/Michael Flatley mode, as well as other folk/performance art dance troupes such as the Australian Tap Dogs, have been all the rage as touring companies on stages around the world for the last few years. One would hardly expect a Celtic dance company to come out ofthe Valley, but sure enough, Scottsdale's Celtic Dance Theatre of Arizona has been hitting the regional touring circuit throughout the summer, dancing its show Fire and Grace at venues from Salt Lake City to Las Vegas to San Diego, San Francisco to UCLA's Royce Hall. The tour wraps up with a two-day stand at the Orpheum Theatre this weekend.

It was also at the Orpheum that Fire and Grace had its première two Februarys ago, in a collaborative performance with 10 dancers and the band from The Scottish Dance Theatre of Canada. For the current tour, however, it's an all-Arizona show, mostly choreographed by artistic director Laura Carruthers, who is also the ensemble's lead dancer.

The music to which the fierce, rousing, athletic dances are performed mixes touches of African-American and Latin rhythm into the basically Celtic sound, to give this form from an island half a world away an appropriately Southwestern flavor. Along with pieces titled "Reel Passion," "Glasgow Nights," "The Price of Fire," "Mistic Rhythm," "The Weave" and "Sgeulachd: The Story" -- the latter choreographed by Donald Dadey, a former artistic director of Ballet Arizona -- the program includes a piece called "Jigs-N-Salsa."

Perhaps because of these culture-blending practices, Celtic Dance Theatre of Arizona has been awarded a $3,000 grant from the Phoenix Arts Commission to shoot portions of the Fire and Grace show for a documentary. The title: Celtic Art in the Valley of the Sun. -- M.V. Moorhead

Celtic Dance Theatre of Arizona performs Fire and Grace at 8 p.m. Friday, July 30; and the same time Saturday, July 31, at theOrpheum Theatre, 203 West Adams. Tickets range from $24 to $28, less for seniors and students. Call 6022627272 (Phoenix Civic Plaza) or 480-5035555 (Dillard's) for details and tickets.

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