Gaelforce Dance:
Video Review by
James Stevens

Audio Quality: 5 out of 5
Video Quality: 4 out of 5
Editing:
4 out of 5

The year 2000 has been a very good year for Irish dance fans.

There have been many great performances by all the current Irish dance troupes worldwide, and we have seen the launch of new shows, Dancing on Dangerous Ground, To Dance on the Moon and Feet of Flames 2000, with the promise of a new show starring John Carey to look forward to. Also, it should also be a good year from the video point of view, because, like the British bus service, it seems you wait forever for one, and then three come along at once. In November we look forward to the release of Michael Flatley's new FOF2000 video, December sees the release of the DODG video, but right now there is a new video to enjoy - Gaelforce Dance.

Filmed live at the Waterfront Hall, Belfast on St Patrick's Day 2000, this video has taken ages to surface, but was worth the wait. Before I start, a little about the show... some people saw it many years ago when James Devine was lead dancer... he is no longer in it, and the show has completely changed since then. I won't give to much away on the plot, but if you are interested in the show then please check out my Behind the Scenes Report which features my complete scene by scene review of the show.

If you haven't read it, then the basic plot is: Boy marries Girl, Boy's Brother steals Girl, Boy and his mates fight Brother and his mates. Someone dies, everyone cries, then everyone becomes friends again.

The video of the new show stars the incredible talents of Timmy Manners, Clare Casey, Anton Cronin (who has since left the show, to be replaced by LOTD T3er Brendan Scallion) and Christine Robinson. First of all some comments on the sound and video quality... the sound is great, the taps are very crisp and loud.

The picture quality is very good, with nice clear colors, a very professional feel all round. The only slight gripe I have is that the image has an unusual formatting, which means that the picture fills the entire screen, making the dancers appear slightly thinner than they should be (most videos have a slight black band at the top), but this is only a minor thing that isn't really noticeable. Now all that technical nonsense is out the way.. Let's get on to the show itself!

Gaelforce has an instrumental overture sequence, and I wondered what they would do on the video to make this interesting. The video starts off with footage from what appears to be the Belfast St Patrick's Day parade, some nice slow mo footage of the crowds and people generally enjoying themselves. Then the footage goes to the stage of the Waterfront for the opening dance, Axis Mundi - The Wedding. This is one of my favorite sequences in the show and the video.

Probably the most important thing about the video that determines how much people enjoy it is the video editing. The editing on the original Lord of the Dance video was described as "edited by a chimpanzee with an attention deficit disorder", which is pretty close to the truth. Many people are annoyed by the way Irish dance videos are edited, normally with too many cuts, overuse of slow motion...etc.. Well, fear not, because I would say that Gaelforce Dance is the best edited Irish dance video yet.

Axis Mundi

Timmy Manners

It has all the camera angles you would possibly want (including overhead cams to show off the choreography patterns), but the cuts are not too quick or numerous, and for the most part, show the action well. For instance, Timmy Manners' opening solo is shot almost entirely from a side view camera angle, allowing you to see him full frame and all his steps and arm movements clearly, without interruption.

Click HERE to see a video clip of Axis Mundi !

Another thing that can be annoying in dance videos is overuse, or just plain misuse of slow motion. Gaelforce uses quite a lot of slow motion, but thankfully it's used only where appropriate, never in fast routines. In fact it enhances the atmosphere a great deal when used. The Wrath Descends sequence, followed by Hopeless Dreams is beautifully edited with great use of lighting, slow motion, and flashback. Real heartbreaking stuff!

So for the most part, the editing is very good, with the following exceptions... there are some truly dreadful continuity errors in The Black Rose Blooms where Christine Robinson is holding a cloth in one shot, which then disappears and reappears from shot to shot. Of course, the video is edited together from the best bits of various performances, but it should never be obvious that this is the case, so that was a bit careless of the director, I thought.


Anton Cronin


Clare Casey & Anton Cronin

The only other gripe with the editing comes at the end - in the full show Christine Robinson has an excellent solo during the character encores, it only lasts for about 30 seconds and was very impressive - for reasons that I can't figure out, this has been completely cut from the video! Instead, it cuts from her being alone on the stage, straight to the whole troupe! Surely they could have trimmed the repeat of the band number to leave this great solo in?

Apart from that, the production of this video is first class. Of course, the video is never as good as seeing the show live, but with the video, you can really appreciate the intricacies of the performances better.

Seeing Timmy Manners' tremendous stage presence and footwork, coupled with Clare Casey's elegant ballet dancing (and breathtaking hardshoe) on video is a real treat, but one thing that makes this video particularly enjoyable, is that not only are the four principal dancers truly brilliant, but the troupe's steps are every bit as complicated and impressive. Gaelforce has the most complex troupe choreography and steps I have ever seen, yet they remain perfectly in time even with the most difficult steps. (Including the assemble move, which is where they jump up and click their heels together a few times in one jump - very impressive when a whole line of the dancers do it.) This video will really appeal to those with an appreciation for complexity of the steps, those who love Irish dancing (fans of hardshoe dancing will not be disappointed, this has more in it than any other show), and those who enjoy good entertainment!

Clare Casey

It's very difficult in style to Riverdance and Lord of the Dance - it's not as exciting or spectacular; instead of going for thrills, Gaelforce concentrates on plot, characterization and emotion, and succeeds brilliantly at doing that. It's a bit like the difference between watching Jurassic Park and Titanic. Or something.

At the moment this video is not available in the shops, but can be ordered - go to http://www.gaelforce-dance.com/Merchandise/merchandise.html for more details!

So order your copy now! You won't regret it!


To Whet your Appetite - Here are some more stills and video clips from Gaelforce!

Clare Casey - Aislings Dream

Christine Robinson & Timmy Manners - After Hours

Click HERE for a video clip of "After Hours Street Dance"


Timmy Manners & Clare Casey -
Love Duet

Tara Ryan - Singer

Storm Clouds Gather

Click HERE for a video clip of
one of my favorite scenes,
Storm Clouds Gather



Timmy Manners - encores.

Wow! What a leap!


Review by James Stevens

Please visit James' Gaelforce Dance Fans Site

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