Stomping Out Objectification: An Interview with Trinity Irish Dance Co.'s Chelsea Hoy

Chelsea Hoy of Trinity Irish Dance Company

Dancer Chelsea Hoy is 23 years old and is already making some noise for herself as a professional photographer, dance instructor, visual artist, children’s yoga instructor, and the associate artistic director of Chicago’s Trinity Irish Dance Company (TIDC).

Together with TIDC Founder Mark Howard, Hoy recently co-choreographed her first full-length piece, “An Sorcas” (Gaelic for “The Circus”), which previewed in Japan and the United States this past summer. On Feb. 2, the work will enjoy its official world premiere at the Auditorium Theatre, where the company will perform additional pieces in its first full-length Chicago performance in more than a decade.

For now, Hoy shares her thoughts on Irish dance, female empowerment and TIDC with Rebellious Magazine.

Janet Arvia: What makes TIDC stand out from other Irish dance troupes?

Chelsea Hoy: Irish dance is inherently a powerful art form; shaped by the resilience of the Irish and heavy in percussion. Unfortunately, over the course of time, some commercial productions have an increasing emphasis on spectacle, with a clear objectification of women dancing pieces with names as absurd as the “Strip Jig.” Female performers are dressed like half-clad Vegas show girls as a backdrop to the male “saviors” who charge forward with their hard shoes on—dominating the spotlight and making noise.

In sharp contrast, in the Trinity Irish Dance Company we not only get to make noise, we are expected to make noise. We are combating these wrongheaded messages, leveling the dance floor, and fighting for gender equity through movement.

Our women are on the frontline of bringing the thunder.

Since our inception in 1990, we have always primarily been a female company that celebrates the strength of our women through intentional costuming, casting, and choreography. Our diverse body of work breaks down stereotypical gender roles and our females lay down aggressive virtuosic rhythms, a style that is typically reserved for males. Our women are on the frontline of bringing the thunder.

Photo by Louis Greenfield

TIDC’s Erin Gradus, Chelsea Hoy, Maggie Nowako, Maggie Doyle, and Marissa Wurster.

How does being a dancer and choreographer complement your role of associate artistic director?

As a former art student, I was never able to step inside my drawings. Now, as a choreographer and a dancer, I’m able to create a world and then jump into it…Being named associate artistic director was a direct result of everything I have learned about TIDC’s mission, legacy, and Mark’s unique genre throughout the past six years as a dancer and an evolving choreographer…Over the course of six years, I have been learning his very specific taste level by being involved in the realization of multiple works. I am honored to now be a part of carrying on his vision.

What are your goals for empowering women and girls?

I want women to walk away from a TIDC performance inspired by the confidence and strength we emit from the stage and empowered to amplify their own voices…I am passionate about providing examples of strength and encouraging young girls to discover their own unique power.

TIDC performs on Feb. 2 at 7:30 p.m. at Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre. For details, visit AuditoriumTheatre.org and TrinityIrishDanceCompany.com.

Chelsea Hoy headshot by Courtney D’Angelo; TIDC photo by Louis Greenfield

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Ms. Arvia is a freelance writer, former filmmaker, artist and Janet-of-all-trades who is pleased to serve as Arts & Culture Editor on our magazine since she’s always been Rebellious.