I’ve got an idea for the next Irish dance show sensation: Bolly Doyle.
The production would meld Riverdance with the Ganges River. There would be Indian pop tunes and moves with fleet of feet Irish. Uillean pipes , bodhrans and sitars. And they could sell curry and chips in the lobby.
We live in a fusion world. Just turn on a cooking show. Nobody makes anything simple anymore.
In metaphorical meal terms for Heartbeat of Home – the extravaganza from the producers of Riverdance that currently is making its USA debut at the Oriental Theatre downtown – you might ask yourself, “Would a Guinness go well with a burrito?” or “Would you put salsa on your Irish breakfast, or maybe substitute puerco for your Irish bacon?” or “Would you like fries with that?”
For this show weds Irish with Latin, Afro-Cuban and hip hop dance styles to mixed results. And when I say wed, well the last scene appears to be some sort of wedding reception. But it’s not a white, suburban one, because there was no Chicken Dance, YMCA, Love Shack, or Lady Gaga to be heard.
Still, this show is a regular rainbow coalition, celebrating how cultures can come together in rhythm and moves.
Eh. All cultures beg, borrow and steal from each other from time immemorial. Irish musicians have been doing this to varying degrees of success for decades. Think Van Morrison’s melding of Irish and American R&B. The Chieftains worked with Linda Ronstadt, Los Lobos and other Latin performers on the 1997 album Santiago. Larry Kirwan and Black 47’s St. Patricio Brigade is but one other example.
In Heartbeat, this merging works best in a piece in the second act that opens with a vertigo-inducing special effect taking dancer/worker dudes to to the top of a building where a dance battle breaks out, showing off each culture and then melding moves.
In the first act, a number set at and mirroring a roiling sea stood out, as did a bit with a bodhran player taking on dancer challengers of all styles, beat-to-beat. I didn’t know anyone, but maybe for Rush, did drum solos anymore, but theres a nice touch of humor about this.
Weirdest part of the show: In the second act there is a musical interlude with some cheesy video game style graphics where an eagle soars along with us viewers past a rail line apparently somewhere in the desert southwest.
Next thing you know, we’re in a penthouse or mansion of some sort featuring one of the male Latin dancers. Have we made it to Vegas – the inevitable home of all shows like this – or is this Michael Flatley’s place in Beverly Hills?
Most 70s variety show moment: A second act dance that includes the Irish guys using hurleys (hurling sticks) then others join the fray.
Best looking: The blonde one in the yellow dress.
And no, despite this being on PBS already, they didn’t have the dancers answering the phones collecting pledges at intermission – though my guess is that probably will happen sometime in the next two weeks.
Anyway, the show has a top notch, exuberant cast and band, even it was apparent some of the music and footsteps were prerecorded.
I’m not exactly the guy to ask about the intricacies of dance. It’s like asking me how to fix a car.
Also, I’ve said it before, I will say it again. Those carvings above the stage at the Oriental Theatre scare me – the ones of the dragon-lion-lizard men playing saxophone and/or really enjoying themselves. Whatever it is they are doing, they would look even more frightening in floppy dancer pants.