Magic of the Dance
There are plenty of flames but no spark at the Grand Opera House
We’ve had Riverdance, Lord of the Dance and now we have Magic of the Dance, because variety is the spice of life.
Promoted as an explosive and exciting dance show, with more Irish Dance World Champions in the cast than any other, it is essentially a love story and a fight against evil spirits, set in famine-stricken Ireland.
Who can forget the spine-tingling performance of Riverdance during 1994’s Eurovision Song Contest? It was a seminal moment for Irish dancing, and spawned a global phenomenon. Within months the touring production would take star billing in theatres across the globe.
Lord of the Dance was equally influential. Magic of the Dance is entertaining but sadly, despite the hype, it fails to live up to its predecessors.
The narrator of the piece is screen legend Christopher Lee, he of Dracula and Lord of the Rings fame - his unmistakable voice set against a video backdrop which changes accordingly.
Moody poetic narrative attempts to drive the story forward: ‘When the sun gives way to dark shadows. And as the heavens are draped in a blood-red cape, the demons awaken. Mystical and wicked, mighty and of evil conviction.' It's all a little disappointing, with images conjured up in the mind that fail to materialise on stage.
Despite the emotive narrative, smoky mists and the dancing - choreographed by Michael Donnellan and John Carey - the production somehow fails to captivate or tap into the darkness of the ancient Irish culture in which it's supposed to be set. It lacks lifeblood and soul.
The performance begins with dark hooded figures carrying fire onstage. We're introduced to the heroine, played by Collette Dunne, a blonde dancing by the light of a full moon, and lead male dancer, Ciaran Maguire. Despite the romantic song, 'She moved through the fair', it’s obvious that there is no love lost between the two characters.
The lead performances, although energetic, lack passion and the expected chemistry fails to ignite. There is obvious technical ability on show, but Dunne appears tense, perhaps nervous. Maguire gives his best performances in his solo numbers.
Despite the lack of sparks between the two leads, the rest of the cast liven up proceedings. There are some great scenes and fantastic performances within the production, including those from dynamic demons Dermot Cullen and Suzanne Cleary.
Cleary sizzles and is a pleasure to watch, a truly tremendous dancer and an incredible stage presence. She cuts a convincing and striking figure with obvious ability and style. She brings an air of drama and vibrancy to the show that the audience appreciate.
The confident Joel Hanna, one of the New York Tap All-Stars, knows how to work a crowd, as he proves when he plucks three men from the audience to perform on stage. Bryan Berry has his own quirky and comic style and really entertains. Some of the tap dancing scenes featuring Hanna and Berry are excellent and when they challenge the Irish dancers to a dance off, it’s a highlight of the show.
At one point in the performance, a member of the dance troupe, clad in eveningwear, sings a haunting solo, hearkening back to Enya or Clannad. She has a wonderful voice and carries the celtic sound beautifully. Perhaps the most magical moment in the show.
Parts of the production are great, in isolation, but the whole thing is quite disjointed, leading many to ponder the question of just what Magic of the Dance aspires to be.
There appears to be no clear plot or storyline. Irish dancing is mixed with modern tap, and elements of pantomime are thrown in for good (or bad) measure.
There are plenty of flames in Magic of the Dance, flames bursting onstage, fiery torches and burning shoes, but there’s no spark. The lack of chemistry between the two main characters ultimately means that it fails to deliver as a love story.
This production feels very commerical and despite the fire and the fancy footwork, it lacks the spirit of its predecessors. It's entertaining in parts, but there's something missing. Perhaps it's the magic...the magic of the dance.