Linda Brongers attended
a performance of Fire of Dance in Apeldoorn at the Schouwburg Orpheus on Sunday,
7 April, 2002, and reviewed it for us.
At the kind invitation of
the producers of Fire of Dance, I headed for Apeldoorn in the Netherlands
to watch the matinee performance of Fire of Dance. Knowing it would be
very different from any of the all-Irish dance shows I had seen so far, it was
quite exciting to see how one could fit such different styles into one show. How
can you meld together the "best of" Riverdance, Tap Dogs, Abba,
Lord of the Dance, Stomp, Fame and Grease? And how
do you train a limited cast of dancers to be versatile enough that they can do
all these numbers? A big premium attached to this show was going to be an interview
with Joel Hanna, the male lead for the Irish dance pieces, who stars in other
numbers as well.
The Overture of the show was a medley of the best-known
musical pieces from all the dance shows that are represented in Fire of Dance.
It was a bit strange, as we could not identify a live band; but even though the
music was of studio quality, it simply didn't sound like pre-taped music. But
there wasn't much time to think about this, as the first dance number started
soon and there was too much to see to think about whether or not the music was
live. It wasn't until the finale of the show, when the spotlights focussed on
a spot just in front of the stage and the dancers all applauded towards that direction,
that we realized there was a live orchestra situated just before the stage, in
a pit so deep that the audience couldn't even see the musicians' heads!
Dogs opened with "Tap Feet", as the spotlights flashed on and two feet were
seen tapping in the center of the stage on a platform in front of a white sheet.
These feet did a terrific show on their own. Then more feet started to appear
just under the sheet, no bodies: eight feet in total, but you could not tell which
foot belonged to whom. Sometimes we thought there was a pair, but then the pair
would tap so far apart that it had to be from different dancers. Even some very
high heels appeared and start "flirting" with the others. A great opening! The
opening number was performed by Stephan Grühn, Guillem Alonso, Roser Font, and
Matt Hills. Stephen, Guillem and Roser did solos too, which were impressive for
their speed and technique. It is amazing what they can do with their legs and
The next number was "Flirt" with Stephan, Guillem, Sarah Longworth
and Kelly Sneade, and ended with a great mix of highlights from Tap Dogs,
with flashing solos, and dancers who danced, slid, ran and jumped on stage and
fired away with their metal-tipped shoes. Their tapping was surprising -- good,
fast, energetic, and full of spirit.
Fame was next, with the numbers
"Hard Work", "Body Electric" and "Fame". Who doesn't remember the trials and tribulations
of a group of students from the New York High School for the Performing Arts,
their relentless striving for fame, all with very different characters, all sharing
the same goal, namely a place in the limelight of show business? This is drama,
music and dance, with varied songs, and we loved the rock finale and theme tune
"Fame." The singer Espen Elliot, who is a famous pop star in Norway, has a great
voice and really knows how to draw the audience into what's happening on stage.
was followed by Riverdance, with lead dancers Joel Hanna and Sarah Longworth
Curran. The band did a very good intro which you could hardly distinguish from
the original, even though there was an obvious lack of traditional Irish instruments.
I was waiting for Joel's first solo with great excitement, never having
had the chance to see him dance before. It's funny how you know exactly when the
lead is supposed to burst onto the stage, and that moment is so exciting. After
the intro dance, when the other dancers had left the stage, suddenly there was
a big shout and Joel jumped out onto the stage.
He has a very original
style, with a very loose upper body and lots of arm movement. Rather than a strong
dancer he is a very supple dancer, with a very fast technique. Sometimes he uses
rigid arm movements and it almost seems like his body is then following his arms.
At other times his style may seem a little aggressive. His facial expressions
are great! He introduces a lot of outside influences in his dancing, even a hint
of martial arts. Well, Michael Flatley displays some typical boxing moves, doesn't
After Joel's solo, the troupe re-appeared for "Reel Around the
Sun", my favorite (besides "Firedance"). I just love it when the lead dancer
leads them diagonally across the stage! After an elegant soft-shoe solo by Sarah,
Joel danced another solo between two big drums: very sharp and fast, and with
some very high kicks, and a double heel click mid-air. What also caught the eye
is how he started off his riffle with a loud stamp with one of his feet, almost
like a fuse, then fired away. After this all the dancers were on stage together
and gave us a great time.
They did a great job, and when you take into account
that most of them are not trained Irish dancers but had to learn it within a limited
period of time for this show, it is amazing how they can keep up with the speed
and remember the patterns. Lots of yells came from the stage! From the looks of
it they have simplified the steps, and the timing wasn't exactly perfect, but
we still got a genuine "Riverdance" feeling, with more than satisfying dance.
Grease, in this never-ending line of top hits. In Grease, the revival
of the '50s, we got "Summer Nights", "Greased Lightnin'", "Sandy" and "Sandra
Dee Reprise", and "You're the One That I Want". Espen Elliot did all the songs,
with Máté Hamarás and Chloë Hughes. It was just as many of us may remember, with
the pretty girls in petticoats and guys wearing black with sunglasses. In "Greased
Lightin'" they actually brought a car on stage, which was transformed from wreck
to pink beauty. The song and dance was cheerful and exciting.
was the break, and the possibility to get some merchandise, which was either the
program book or a CD. The CD unfortunately wasn't quite up to date and didn't
reflect the show as it was, as apparently numbers are added and taken out every
now and then.
Part II started with Stomp. First on stage was Guillem
Alonso and he showed his amazing abilities on a raised platform loaded with sand,
inventing a new word…sandtapping!!!! Tapping away in the sand, you can imagine
what that sounded like, with the sandy shuffles and steps. Then we got a number
with broomsticks - first used to get rid of the sand - and these sticks can really
make as much noise as tapping feet! This was performed by Guillem, Alonso, Roser,
Joel, Matt Hills, Melissa Conner, Helen Kent, Sarah Longworth, and Kelly Sneade.
this part, they disappeared off the stage and Joel was left to pick up the broomsticks.
He seemed covered in them and showed how you can make a show out of cleaning up!
Then Guillem, Roser, Stephan (and ensemble) showed us how to do tap dance with
the lids of trashcans tied to your feet. It was hilarious! Guillem did a super
solo, and then Guillem, Roser and Stephan ended with an improvisation on the front
part of the stage before closed curtains. Tapping at its best!
is what followed, a parody of Abba. They call this part Mamma Mia, and
we heard "Honey, Honey", "The Winner Takes It All", "Mamma Mia", a reprise of
"Honey Honey", and a medley. Abba consisted of Chloë Hughes, Espen Elliot, Sarah
Longworth, Máté Hamarás, but as far as I could see all the faces we had seen before
joined in this part. They sang the songs just right, and apart from the songs
they created a funny story around Abba. It wasn't always clear what they meant
to show, as all of a sudden there was a guy dressed as a bookkeeper suddenly running
around the stage and we didn't have a clue what he was doing there! Overall it
was very funny, but you do have to like Abba to appreciate this part.
program then arrived at Lord of the Dance, beginning with "Who'll Come
With Me" - which of course has nothing to do with Lord of the Dance, although
it was listed in the program book as part of Lord of the Dance. The song
was a sort of intermediate number, after which the Little Spirit finally appeared
on stage and played her enchanted flute. The dancers were lying around her, but
she didn't have the golden sparkles in her pocket and so couldn't scatter them.
The flute playing just wasn't what it should be, and the waking up of the dancers
could have been done with a little more sensitivity. But it was good enough, and
the girls danced with loads of enthusiasm. The Little Spirit, danced by Roser,
joined the dancers for almost all of the opening sequence, which was great; I
loved seeing the Spirit do lots of Irish dance in her playful style. Roser did
a great job!
Joel's "Cry of the Celts" solo made up for any flaws in the
opening. This version of "Cry of the Celts" is quite different from the original,
as there were more female dancers in it, but still it was impressive. The steps
were synchronized better than the Riverdance numbers. During a medley of
"Lord of the Dance", "Warriors", and "Duel" there were - surprisingly - two "bad
guys", Stephan and Guillem. They took turns, but Stephan was the main bad guy,
doing kicks so high he reached way over Joel's head!
Joel danced bare-chested,
displaying a huge tattoo on his back of a Chinese dragon with a Celtic dog in
the middle. This was completed by a tattoo on his left arm, with Chinese characters
meaning speed, strength, and luck. The tattoos reflect his background, as he has
an Irish father and an Asian mother.
"Victory" was great, with the dancers
in line, all stepping at the same time, always impressive. Every now and then
the synchronization was lost, and here also the steps have been simplified from
the original, but overall it gave an exciting impression of Lord of the Dance,
exactly what it meant to achieve.
After the show, the tour manager, Germar
Sandau, met us where the bus was parked along with the technicians' huge camper,
to take us to the dressing rooms to meet Joel. This really was a big treat - meeting
Joel Hanna in person in the dressing room, talking to him for half an hour, with
Stephan and Guillem also present in the same relatively small room.
talked about the show, his life, his plans, and his dreams. He had another surprise
for us - he invited us to see the evening show from backstage, and enjoy the hectic
sight of costume and set changes, and dancers positioning and getting ready. "You
can wander round and see what it's like -- see how crazy it gets back there!"
be backstage for the entire show was such a thrill! Looking through the curtains
is so much different from being in the audience. From backstage, the dancers on
stage seem to be so noisy, which you just don't hear sitting on the other side.
There you have Riverdance on stage but are almost run over by a bike which
they need for Grease. The riddle of the Tap Dogs' feet is solved before
your eyes. People are stretching and tying their shoes just before running on
stage, where suddenly they seem soooooooo relaxed! Sometimes they have to run
off stage, change costume and hop back on one leg, and only just make it before
the audience can see them.
It was exciting to be there and somehow become
part of it all, to get a sense of what they feel and see what's going on on stage
from such a totally different angle. It was an unforgettable evening. Thanks Joel,
and thanks to all the performers and management of Fire of Dance!!!!
to Interview, Part I
Photos: Arnold Bergsma
Original Web Design: Alexander