Sunday, 30 June 2019

DANCE REVIEW: Rhythm Of The Dance - Theatre Royal, Wakefield.


With a wonderfully gifted young cast of dancers, musicians and three Irish singers, this was a show that has won critical acclaim across four continents, 36 countries and in excess of seven million fans. It has undergone a process of renewal to include a reinvigoration of both choreography and music to create an even more spectacular performance. Producer Kieran Cavanagh has updated the format of the show, ensuring that 'Rhythm Of The Dance' breathes further life into the genre, thereby helping to cement its legacy and longevity through this outstandingly authentic rendition.

The set offers a large backdrop showcasing a range of breathtaking and iconic Irish geographic scenery and famous portraits. The set was enhanced throughout the show with changing chromatics with the spotlights on key dancers. The costumes were traditional and based around the simple princess cut dress and decorated with Celtic designs, reproduced from those seen in The Book Of Kells. The skirts were gored; box pleated, spilt panel or knife-edged all to allow free leg movement.

The show begins in Newgrange, one of Ireland’s natural wonders. The dance builds in layers of different rhythms until the full troupe are dancing together in powerful synchronisation, joined by the band in celebration of the people of Ireland. There are various other dances that followed following the journey across the ocean where it all began. This is key and symbolises the evolution of Irish dance, its metamorphosis and dissemination across the globe (this production appears to employ New York as a metaphor for this growth by showing several pictures- as a backdrop- of the city under construction and in its modern and more complete form. This further offers a reference towards the hugely beneficial impact of Irish migration to the United States in the early part of the 20th century, together with its rich traditions, including Irish dancing). To this end, the female lead Amy Marie Prior stirs a rhythmic force set with the backdrop of powerful beats of the tribal drum transports you back to where it all began. In between the dancers’ performances, the band played a medley of classic Irish songs that got your feet tapping and hands clapping. Each band member had their own solo spot on their particular instrument. There were also some solo singing numbers which were sang with powerful voices.

The second half signified a New Dawn as the sun rose on a new place with a picture bright futures and full of possibilities. The male troupe took us through a variety of different rhythms from the basic to the most intricate fast footwork, each exhibiting their power and strengths. The troupe then embarked on their dance, with a combined force of both female and male dancers taking us on a trip around the world and finally ending up leaving the past behind and bringing us to a different era. The band then gave their farewell performance in the show, highlighting each soloist and bringing the house down with foot stomping live Irish music. After taking us through many foreign places they return home to celebrate their heritage through some amazing dancing numbers of such powerful dance from the whole troupe.

In summary, the performances were imbued with stamina, rhythm and perfection of timing and synchronicity, with the leading female dancer, Amy Marie Prior, epitomising all that was good about this production. It undoubtedly remained loyal to its ultimate objective: to perpetuate and showcase the immutable language of dance and the imperishable nature of its rich Irish ancestry.

Reviewer - Debbie Jennings
on - 29/6/19

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