A Dream Voyage
From the producers of Riverdance
Conceived & Directed by John McColgen
Composer Brian Byrne
Lyrics by Joseph O’Connor
Choreographed by David Bolger
Irish Dance Choreographer John Carey
At the Oriental Theatre, Chicago
Surprisingly different from Riverdance, Heartbeat of Home delivers a high octane dance extravaganza
Moya Doherty and John McColgen thrilled the world with Riverdance as it played to sold out houses from 1994 through 2009 and it still is perfumed on a smaller scale throughout the world. Riverdance made Irish step dancing famous as it opened the doors to more Irish dance shows as well as other European ethnic dance shows. But as high energy and rhythmically vibrant as Riverdance was, it was a special dance show. Now, Doherty and McColgan’s new show, Heartbeat of Home, reflects the 21st Century changes in Ireland and the enhancement of Irish step dancing as youngsters in the new multi-ethnic Ireland, Canada, Australia and the USA have grown up learning Irish step dancing. It is refreshing to see other ethnic dancers than Irish excelling at the Irish dance.
But Heartbeat of Home surprised me by blending Irish step dancing with ballet, modern dance, with hip-hop, samba, mambo, tango, even waltz. My first impression is that the styles and tone simply didn’t mix; that the uniqueness of Riverdance lies in its purity as an Irish dance show. The blended numbers seemed to flatten out as light-weight ballet and ethnic Latin and Afro-Cuban sounds and dance styles mingled with some Irish dancing flowing through. That took some adjustment on my part since I’m a purist fan of Irish dances.
But, as time when on and the cleverness of the fabulous dancers combined with David Bolger’s world-class choreography with John Carey’s improved Irish Dance choreography showed that contemporary Irish dancers can still do their quick-stepping yet they can adjust to seamlessly flow into most styles. They thrilled me by incorporating the step-dancing elements into Latin and Afro-Cuban rhythms. Carey has his Irish dancers doing jumps, synchronized arm movements and stylish side-steps that added power to the original music from Brian Byrne.
The score still has the heart-pounding percussion and pipes but with brass the Latin and Cuban sounds gave the show more vibrancy. All the elements of an extravaganza are here in the USA premiere of Heartbeat of Home, now playing only until March 16 at the Oriental Theatre. The nine musicians are world-class and the implacable dancers were flawless. I’d advise to tame down the video projections that seemed to only distract from the pulsating dances. I also thought that a show as well staged should have a stronger singer for the ballads. But those are minor items.
The main elements; the Irish dancers led by Bobby Hodges and Clara Sexton were outstanding; Clare Craze anchored the Latin dancers while the Flamenco dancer team of Rocio Montoya and Stefano Domit were polished and exciting. Teneisha Bommer lead the Afro-Cuban dancers with her smooth style. One of the amazing thing about this group of 28 dancers was their ability to dance in all the styles covered in the show. Irish dancers doing a tango with Afro-Cubans doing Irish step dancing. The step-dancing mash-up was effective and thrilling making an exhilarating new style of rhythmic dancing part Irish and part Latin and/or Afro-Cuban. The result, especially in the heart-stopping act two numbers, was a fusion of 21st Century dance styles based on the Irish model. After their success of Riverdance, why would Moya Doherty and John McColgan stray too far from the formula that got them such success?
Heartbeat of Home is a refreshingly new take on Irish step dancing in that it has the manic energy and style but with more pizazz, improved Irish styles with smart inclusion of other sounds and dance styles. The result is a dramatically exhilarating new show with hints of the glory of Riverdance. Doherty and McColgan have another hit on their hands. The dancing go on…
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: March 5, 2104
For more info checkout the Heartbeat of Home page at theatreinchicago.com
At the Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph, Chicago, IL, call 800-775-2000, www.broadwayinchicago.com, tickets $30 – $85,Tuesdays at 7:30 pm, Wednesdays at 2 & 7:30 pm, Thursdays & Fridays at 7:30, Saturdays at 2 * 8 pm, Sundays at 2 & 7;30 pm, running time is 2 hours, 10 minutes with intermission, through March 16, 2104