This Fantasy is Fact

Eamon McNally enjoyed interpretive Irish dancing at the Riverside Theatre

A subject that is beautiful in itself gives no suggestion to the artist. It lacks imperfection. And Oscar Wilde knew a thing or two about art.

Fantasy to Fact, is a showcase of Irish dancing in two very different acts. 'Fantasy' is the first act and is largely the preserve of those experts of fantasy, the young. Many of these young dancers are of primary school age and embrace the subject matter without the reserve that age brings.

The dancing trips lightly to the music of The Wizard of Oz, The Jungle Book and Mary Poppins. This is Irish dancing, Jim, but not as we know it. The tap steps remind us of where these youngsters gained their expertise but the upper body movements and choreography are untypical.

The choreography is sophisticated for ones so young and they handle it with aplomb. Their memory for movement is impressive and their execution assured although the emphasis is on imagination.

I felt the musical introduction to 'Trust in Me', the snake charming from the Jungle Book, was a little long but the dance was as sinuous and suggestive as the real Ka. In contrasting innocence the little bird danced and fluttered around her feeder in 'Feed the Birds' from Mary Poppins.

The second half was a showcase for the taught team and solo dances and was completely traditional. The costuming was soft and subtle and the dancers’ hair and skin tone were all their own.

This was when I thought of Wilde for if the lines were not always perfectly straight or the spacing perfectly even this was not the point of the performance. Riverdance this was not, thank goodness. This was a joyous interpretation of the full range of traditional dances and the exuberance of the final reel following the graceful set dance, 'The Blackbird', was inspirational, not merely technical. The hornpipe was technical.

The highlight for me was a piece on the theme of creation that featured a white dove and a team of dancers in striking red, performing various figures in the shape of a cross. Into this was introduced a team dance in heavy shoes and the effect is thrilling.

One notable deficiency was the complete absence of boys and young men. What is the matter with them? It is their loss.

I defy anyone to leave this performance unhappy. My abiding memory will be one young lady whose dancing was particularly expressive and who could not stop smiling. Ain't life grand?