A Little Slice Of The Emerald Isles

The National Dance Company of Ireland

Rhythm Of The Dance

Theatre Severn

15 July 2018

 

Straight from the off you know you are going to witness something rather special. One is not mistaken. This is a great, captivating, sometimes breath taking show; it brings the feel and the spirit of a mystical land far across the water. The land of Celts, of magic, history and stories, of sweet sounding music and the land of the dance. Wonderful.

Straight from the off with Newrange at Dawn a haunting Irish voice floated out above the low whistle with an atmospheric back drop of various encapsulating Irish landscape shots, projected onto the back cloth,  it was a song calling all dancers to come and weave their spells and they did.

With wonderful Traditional/Contemporary music delivered by Banjo, Bodhran, Two row Castagnari Melodeon, Whistles low and flutes and of course the chilling spine tingling uileaan pipes. So unique to Ireland. If the music was the spell the dancers were the magic.

The ladies were so gentle, so beautifully feminine, diaphanous almost, they were so silent on their feet and they used their arms in such a gentle way. The men almost brutish by contrast delighted us with synchronicity, talking feet and strong powerful moves that lift this form of dancing into a class of its own. Some dancing is so mesmerising it is impossible to look away. This is such a show.

Sadly delivering an Ireland that appears more in America and the North American continent than it does in Ireland the magic suffers non the worst for it. We know that that Ireland is gone and lost. Ireland is a cosmopolitan country now offering more than jigs and reels, however they do have a wonderful tradition, and it is that which this show is so successfully served by.

Sometimes it’s a case of if this is Ireland where is the gift shop? However in the pubs and in the festivals this music is being played and in schools and conservetoires all over Ireland this wonderful form of dancing is taught and most children are strongly encouraged to learn.

That doesn’t stop the show initially feeling a bit chintzy, one wondered was it in any way a genuine reflection of Irish culture? As one gets further engrossed into the show the answer presents itself, of course this is a fair reflection of Irish culture and by goodness it isn’t half contagious!  

Taking a journey through Ireland and exploring their narrative one becomes aware of the famine and the depopulation of Ireland as the Wild Geese, as they were known, escaped Ireland to America due to the potato famine. The sorrow from that reflects in the haunting sounds of the Uileaan pipes and the deep Low Whistle, so characteristic in Irish music.

But there is happiness too and parties and festivals are reflected. From Broom dancing to single clogs on a tin tray. Fascinating. One became aware that some of the steps being used can be seen in the dancing of the Dartmoor Step Dancers or the Romany culture which crops up everywhere.

England has a wonderful culture of dance and music but the only person that brought that to a big stage in latter years is Damien Barber with his sensational Locked In. It is a proudness of their culture that seems to mark Ireland out as a different place to be . A story so deeply woven into the fabric of Ireland it is an infectious sort of thing.  We see ourselves as so modern, so jet age, our culture seems not to fit our image. Maybe that’s an argument for another time but one is aware of the love and proudness the cast has got as they give us an illustrated guide right into the heart of their land. It is sensational.

This show is vibrant, the live music is as good if not better than you will have heard Irish music played, it is energetic and delightful. One is simply exhausted after just watching it, heaven knows how the cast will get on the coach, make a long journey to the next theatre and do it all again. They deserve medals. Wonderful entertainment.

This Is a Five Star Review

Owen J Lewis

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Owen Lewis Owen Lewis

Owen Lewis was born fifty something years ago in the land of the black puddings. For the geographically challenged that is in Lancashire. Moving to Shropshire From 1970 Owen was brought up in Church Stretton. His first real job was in radio. After starting on BBC Radio Shropshire he became known on Marcher Sound, broadcasting throughout the North West for several years. After a university degree course in Theatre, Owen became an actor and went on to play "Pirate Bill" in The Alton Towers Hotel. He also made several television appearances. Returning to university he took his PGCE enabling him to teach. That saw him on the Essex coast as a drama teacher and latterly as a Creative Educational Liaison Officer making films and creating new teaching methods to employ on children in need of more help in their fundamental learning skills. Published playwright Owen ultimately wants a house boat in Amsterdam to focus on his work as Playwright and Poet.

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