The Irish dance phenomenon: Celtic crossover.Irish dance Irish dances come in several forms, which can broadly be divided into social dances and performance dances. Irish social dancing can be divided further into céilí and set dancing. has stepped from obscurity to claim center stage, with both Riverdance and Lord of the Dance on tour this month. What account for the breakout success of a bravura bra·vu·ra
a. Brilliant technique or style in performance.
b. A piece or passage that emphasizes a performer's virtuosity.
2. A showy manner or display.
1. folk art folk art, the art works of a culturally homogeneous people produced by artists without formal training. The forms of such works are generally developed into a tradition that is either cut off from or tenuously connected to the contemporary cultural mainstream. once known only to a few?
Arms pinned to their sides, legs flicking, flailing, scissor-kicking, pounding like pistons, Irish dancers seem to embody a schizoid schizoid /schiz·oid/ (skit´soid)
1. denoting the traits that characterize the schizoid personality.
2. sexuality. The top half of the body refuses to acknowledge what the lower half is up to.
"One theory is that the Catholic Church forbade any form of sensual expression--except the rhythm method rhythm method
A birth control method dependent on abstinence during the period of ovulation.
Rhythm method ," says Colin Dunne Colin Dunne, born May 8, 1968 in Birmingham, England, is a professional Irish dancer. Training
Dunne trained at the Marion Turley Academy of Irish Dance in Coventry. , champion Irish dancer (nine world titles between the ages of nine and twenty-two) and head of the Riverdance troupe in the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. .
"Another theory is that the Irish didn't want their English oppressors to know that they were having a good time, so they kept their faces glum glum
adj. glum·mer, glum·mest
1. Moody and melancholy; dejected.
2. Gloomy; dismal.
1. and their upper bodies still," he continues. "Or perhaps it was because the dancing took place in confined spaces like small bars, and you couldn't move your arms without spilling someone's drink." Whatever the reason, Dunne is happy to work within the confines of the form, while experimenting with ways of taking it further. Like Michael Flatley Michael Ryan Flatley (born July 16, 1958 in Detroit, Michigan) is an Irish-American step dancer from the south side of Chicago. His parents were from County Mayo and County Carlow. As a child, he moved to Chicago - the city which he considers his home town. , whom he replaced as Riverdance's leading man in October 1995, Dunne is a choreographer as well as a performer.
Flatley parted company with Riverdance after a disagreement with its Irish producers, Moya Doherty and John McColgan. He said that they refused him artistic control; they said that the show was bigger than he was and rejected his demands for fees and royalties, amounting to some $75,000 a week, which would have made him the highest-paid dancer in the world. Riverdance has carried on successfully without him, earning more than 10 million [pounds sterling] (about $16 million) to date from box-office sales alone. Videotapes, compact discs, souvenir programs--even a Web site--have also added considerably to the enterprise's profits.
Flatley has sued the Riverdance producers, reportedly for 2 percent of the show's revenue, but the case has yet to go to court. Meanwhile, Flatley has created his own successful show, Lord of the Dance, which opened in Dublin in July 1996 and is currently touring fifteen U.S. cities through October [see the Performance Calendar] before traveling to the Far East and Australia. He, in turn, has been sued for money allegedly owed to several of his agents and collaborators.
Yet a third Irish dance spectacular, Spirit of the Dance, hopes to visit the U.S. next year. This sequin-clad show models itself on Riverdance (with which it has no connection), using similarly eclectic mix of Irish step dance, flamenco, tap, Ukrainian folk dance folk dance, primitive, tribal, or ethnic form of the dance, sometimes the survival of some ancient ceremony or festival. The term is used also to include characteristic national dances, country dances, and figure dances in costume to folk tunes. , and even a pointe-shoe number. Choreography is by Alan Harding, a British showbiz and television dance director. Two Spirit of the Dance troupes of thirty dancers each have performed for the past two years in English seaside resorts and middle-sized theaters that the two larger shows don't visit. Riverdance and the Lord of the Dance tour to arena-sized rock venues and major theaters, reaching deals with theater managements to avoid treading on each others' toes.
So far, at least, audiences on both sides of the Atlantic show no signs of being sated sate 1
tr.v. sat·ed, sat·ing, sates
1. To satisfy (an appetite) fully.
2. To satisfy to excess. by Irish dance. Riverdance has split into two troupes, one touring Europe and the other the U.S., both performing the same show. By Christmas, the British one will be back in London for the fourth time. There are plans to set up a third troupe to tour U.S. theaters in 1998. Riverdance and Lord of the Dance have also both completed successful Australian seasons, performing to sold-out houses. Smaller, older troupes, such as Chicago's Trinity Irish Dance Company, are also enjoying success.
The extraordinary appeal of Irish dance in the closing years of this century is partly due to the skillful skill·ful
1. Possessing or exercising skill; expert. See Synonyms at proficient.
2. Characterized by, exhibiting, or requiring skill. theatricalization of the folk dance form and its music. But it is also due to the spirit of the times. Audiences have gone crazy for percussive per·cus·sive
Of, relating to, or characterized by percussion.
per·cussive·ly adv. shows of all kinds: Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk is a musical that debuted Off-Broadway at the New York Shakespeare Festival/Public Theater in 1996. It moved to the Ambassador Theatre on Broadway, opening there on April 25, 1996. , Tap Dogs "Tap Dogs", as the name suggests is a tap dance show, created by Australian dancer and Choreographer, Dein Perry. The original production of the show had its world premiere in January 1995 at the Sydney Theatre Festival in Australia. , Stomp, and the internationally touring flamenco companies of Joaquin Cortes, among others. People of all ages, not just the young, respond to high levels of energy and of noise, amplified to match the thumping rhythms of rock music. Production values Production values is a media term for "production cost." It refers to the professional look, or "polish," of a production. Factors that affect perceived production value may include video and audio quality, lighting, number of errors, and amount and quality of special effects. are those of rock concerts, with look-at-me lighting and video effects See digital video effects. . Dancers give attitude, borrowing stylistic devices from each other and from MTV MTV
in full Music Television
U.S. cable television network, established in 1980 to present videos of musicians and singers performing new rock music. MTV won a wide following among rock-music fans worldwide and greatly affected the popular-music business. videos. Folk art has become mainstream, overtly sexy, accessible.
The crossover happened first in world music, as modern musicians and recording technicians hybridized traditional tunes, rhythms, and instruments from different countries. Dance fusions followed, as choreographers reacted to changing musical styles. Several of the leading Irish dancers, including Flatley, Dunne, Jean Butler Jean Butler was born (March 14, 1971) in Mineola, Long Island. Butler, whose mother is from Co. Mayo in Ireland, began training in Irish dance at the age of four with the widely respected teacher Donny Golden. , and Daire Nolan Daire Nolan b. December 1, 1968) is an Irish dancer and Choreographer best known for his work in Lord of the Dance and Feet of Flames.
Daire has been dancing since the age of ten under the guidance of his parents Rose and Tony Nolan in Limerick and is no , toured with the Chieftains, the popular Irish folkrock band, in the 1980s. Riverdance did not invent a new type of international Irish music and dance for the 1990s; it capitalized on what was happening already.
Riverdance owes its origins to a seven-minute number devised to entertain the audience for the Eurovision Song Contest in 1994, when Ireland was the host country. The annual pop-song contest is transmitted live on European TV to an estimated 300 million viewers. While the judges debated how to allocate their votes, Moya Doherty, a producer for RTV RTV Room Temperature Vulcanizing (elastomer sealant)
RTV Radio Television (educational major)
RTV ReplayTV (digital video recorder brand)
RTV Real-Time Video
RTV Return To Vendor , Ireland's national television station, filled the time with a dance divertissement di·ver·tisse·ment
1. A short performance, typically a ballet, that is presented as an interlude in an opera or play.
2. Music See divertimento.
3. A diversion; an amusement. that she had commissioned from Flatley.
The studio audience in Dublin rose to its feet at the end of the number, which celebrated Celtic myths and the River Liffey Liffey redirects here. For the Australian town see Liffey, Tasmania.
The Liffey (An Life in Irish) is a river in the Republic of Ireland, which flows through the centre of Dublin. Its major tributaries include the River Dodder, the River Poddle and the River Camac. , at the heart of Ireland's capital city. The standing ovation was both a tribute to the performers and an affirmation of the Irish audience's sense of its own identity in the eyes of the watching world. That combination of national pride, Celtic nostalgia, and kinetic pleasure in dance has boosted Riverdance--the show, the videos, the CDs--ever since. Although the Irish diaspora The Irish diaspora consists of Irish emigrants and their descendants in countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Argentina, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa and states of the Caribbean and continental Europe. around the world accounts for the core of Riverdance's success, its appeal is far wider, just as a delight in flamenco is not limited to Spaniards. Audiences of all stripes seem drawn to the production.
The dancers from whom Flatley and Doherty drew inspiration for the initial Riverdance show were amateurs, veterans of the competition circuit. Colin Dunne's experience was typical. He was born twenty-nine years ago in Birmingham, England, of Irish parents (just as Flatley was born thirty-nine years ago in Chicago of Irish stock). He was sent to Irish dance class to keep him in touch with his roots, and was good enough to qualify for his first championship at the age of eight (the minimum age has since been raised to eleven). His teacher, Marion Turtey in Coventry, was, he says, "the best, and ahead of her time. She choreographed a number for us in 1985 to some fusion music--it was the Beatles' 'Hey Jude' set to a hornpipe hornpipe, English folk dance known since the 16th cent., when it obtained its name from the wind instrument that accompanied it. The hornpipes of the 17th and 18th cent. have moderate 3–2 time and 4–4 time. rhythm--to express second- and third-generation Irish kids' identity confusion growing up in England. There were letters to the local press criticizing us for bastardizing traditional dance and for wearing teenage street clothes instead of proper outfits."
Competition rules were, and are, extremely strict. "Boys had to wear kilts, which I hated," says Dunne. "We rehearsed for hours every day, preparing three routines, one in soft shoes and the others in hard shoes, girls as well as boys. You go through the grading system run by the Commission [An Coimisiun le Rinci Gaelacha, the Irish Dance Commission] until you reach the championships--All-Ireland, Great Britain, and World. I won twenty-nine titles in all until I retired at twenty-two to become an accountant. There was no way then of earning your living as a dancer."
Dunne has been pondering, for a book he is writing, why he danced as a youth. "It was always for competition," he muses, "not for fun or social pleasure, though I do remember going into the studio when I wasn't in training and putting on any music I liked--pop, jazz, anything--and just moving to the music, wearing my sneakers sneakers
US, Canad, Austral & NZ canvas shoes with rubber soles
sneakers npl (US) → zapatos mpl de lona; zapatillas fpl instead of dance shoes. I'd use the steps I made up, and the accidents, to spark off ideas for a competition dance." He says that the rules changed to allow for innovations. "Tap syncopations came into the heavy-shoe routines, which also grew faster and more complicated, and ballet influenced the soft-shoe work. I'm not sure that Michael [Flatley] realized how much things had moved after he did his last world championship in 1975. He wasn't unique as an innovator."
Flatley introduced flamenco-style arms into his choreography for Riverdance, an innovation that Dunne dropped when he took over Flatley's role on short notice. "I like to keep the Irish step dance technique, with the arms loosely held but never rigid. So when I dance with Maria Pages [the show's flamenco dancer], we do the same rhythms but don't try to fuse our styles. I don't see myself as a matador matador
In bullfighting, the principal performer, who works the capes and attempts to dispatch the bull with a sword thrust between the shoulder blades. Most of the techniques used by modern matadors were established in the 1910s by Juan Belmonte (b. 1894–d. , as Michael did." Dunne accepts the fact, though, that his style has changed greatly since he joined Riverdance and has learned a lot more about himself as a theatrical performer.
"I think I--we--have rediscovered our reason for dancing. We do it now to communicate, to show pride in our traditions, not just to win prizes," concludes Dunne. "And now it's become a profession, so the kids in dance classes have another goal to aim for."
In fact, the demand for young Irish dancers is so great that the schools can hardly turn them out fast enough. They are wanted for trade shows and wedding receptions, cabarets and parties, as well as for the big touring shows. "Riverdancing" has become a generic term for Irish dancing, used by fans who wouldn't know the difference between step, ceili, and set dancing--the group formation dances rather like American square dances.
The two leading ladies in Flatley's Lord of the Dance were just sixteen when he recruited them in Dublin as foils for his central role. His aim was to attract a younger, more rock-and-roll audience than Riverdance's families and bused-in parties (though the audiences were very similar each time I saw the shows). Riverdance is essentially a variety show on an Irish theme, with a thread of a story: Irish immigrants to the New World influenced American tap and maybe--a very tenuous "maybe"--Irish dance has influences in common with Spanish and Eastern European folk traditions. Lord of the Dance claims to be more innovative in recounting a dramatic narrative of good versus evil, using the conventions of a video game.
In Lord of the Dance, warring clans clash in hard-shoe routines, to the consternation of the women of Ireland, who tippy-toe in soft shoes. Direction and choreography are attributed to Flatley, Arlene Philips, and Marie Duffy. The Lord of the Dance is challenged, tempted, and killed, only to rise again in time for the finale.
A virtuoso dancer, Flatley presents himself as a macho man, oiled torso gleaming above his champion boxer's belt, sweatband retaining his bleached locks. Although he is an unlikely sex object, he is expert at stimulating excitement and applause. His finale, as televised during the Academy Awards last spring, delivers a paramilitary showbiz drill of one-arm salutes and the rat-a-tat-tat of firing feet--for some, an uneasy echo of I.R.A. violence.
Lord of the Dance is the furthest from folk dance, the least "authentic" of the current crop of Irish spectaculars. (Its title and theme music come, incongruously, from a twentieth-century English carol, not from the mists of Celtic prehistory prehistory, period of human evolution before writing was invented and records kept. The term was coined by Daniel Wilson in 1851. It is followed by protohistory, the period for which we have some records but must still rely largely on archaeological evidence to .) Its costumes of hot pants and bare midriffs were still raising eyebrows in Dublin when I first saw it there last summer. Riverdance, regarded as revolutionary when it first opened, now seems conventional, the big hair and short skirts for the women almost part of the Irish national costume. Both shows, and their imitation spinoff Spirit of the Dance, have so raised the profile of Irish step dance that it will likely not disappear when the next dance craze displaces it. Like flamenco and tap, it will continue to develop.
"Irish dancers are only just beginning to learn what we can do in the theater," says Dunne. "What we need to do is develop a structure, maybe a training academy that teaches theatrical as well as academic technique, and that encourages experimental choreography. We can learn from other dance forms how to be expressive, how to take our traditions forward, instead of just passing exams and winning trophies."
RELATED ARTICLE: IRISH DANCING ONLINE
Irish dance isn't only breaking new barriers onstage. There is a wealth of material about it on the newest of information resources, the Internet. Both Riverdance and Lord of the Dance maintain official Web sites. The one for Riverdance is at http://www.riverdance.com. Lord of the Dance's site is at http://www.lord ofthedance.com/index.shtml. And Trinity Irish Dance Company has a site at http://www.trinity-dancers.com.
A good general description of the various forms of Irish dancing can be read on the page called A Brief Overview of Irish Dance at http://www.inx.net/~mar didom/rcidance.htm. This page is part of a larger Web site, Rince Ceol Amhran (Dance Music and Song), published by the Irish Arts Center of New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of at http:// www.inx.net/~mardidom/rchome.htm. (For further information on dance at the Irish Arts Center, call Linda Downes at (718) 441-9416.) The Irish Arts Center pages include lists of books This is a list of lists of books in Wikipedia: General lists
And if Irish music is your interest, point your Web browser The program that serves as your front end to the Web on the Internet. In order to view a site, you type its address (URL) into the browser's Location field; for example, www.computerlanguage.com, and the home page of that site is downloaded to you. to Ceolas, which claims to be the largest online collection of information about Celtic music. Hosted at Stanford University in California, it's located at http://celtic.stan ford.edu/ceolas.html and includes a link to Stanford's IrishNet.
You can also find out more about Irish dancing in your area by calling the local Irish consulate (it's in the business section of your telephone directory's white pages under "Consulate General of Ireland") or by contacting the Irish Dance Teachers Association of North America, Dennis Dennehy, President, P. O. Box 258, Oak Lawn, IL 60454.