Dance of Desire at the Celtic Cafe


Thanks to Ann Keller, our "intrepid reporter" in Dublin, we have the following introduction to our coverage of the exciting new Irish dance show, Dance of Desire. Each day this week we'll be adding information and her interviews with principals in the show, so please check back. Dance of Desire finished their run at the Ambassador Theatre in Dublin on Thursday, Sept. 11, preparing for a six-week tour in Germany, and then to destinations beyond. See the Celtic Cafe's tour schedule for this exciting new production by clicking here. The show's official site is at:

Click here for Ann's interview with composer and Executive Producer Eric Cunningham,
newly added to our Celtic Cafe coverage of Dance of Desire.

Click here for a list and photos of the performers currently in the show, heading to Germany for a six-week tour.

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On May 8th, 2003 a new Irish dance show was born in Dublin, with its first preview performance at the Ambassador Theatre. The troupe also performed to standing ovations at a special performance in Paris on May 17th, where major show promoters were numerous among the ecstatic crowd. Dance of Desire is set to become a world-acclaimed member of the international Irish dance show circuit.

I am delighted to be able, through the Celtic Cafe, to introduce some of the personalities behind the show. I have had the pleasure of getting to know another fabulous group of people, and those I have talked to for this feature have had fascinating tales to tell that I know will inspire many. We hope to be able to add more interviews with other cast members as time goes on.

Since the fabulous 'Flatley Revolution' of Irish dance there have been many successor shows, some of them very good and very successful on the world stage, launching many wonderful dancers to stardom. There have been shows that look back to tradition, and shows that are essentially dance reviews, and a few that have undertaken to follow a drama theme.

With Dance of Desire, here is a show with everything: colour and light, wonderful original music, clever dramatic content, and incredible dancing that truly pushes the boundaries of choreography and fuses Irish dance seamlessly with Flamenco, Latin American, Middle Eastern, ballet and ballroom styles, with a few acrobatics thrown in. Added to the dazzling dance content and a strongly portrayed storyline, Dance of Desire also has a unique soundtrack composed entirely of original music, none of it even remotely based on existing traditional Irish music. Eric Cunningham, co-Executive Producer with Michael Carr, directed the show as well as composing and arranging the music. He is a remarkable talent, still amazingly young and with a very exciting future. Click here for our Celtic Cafe interview with him.

Musically highly educated, Cunningham has fused the traditional with a strongly modern rock-pop style (reminiscent of the genius of Ronan Hardiman), and for his special contribution he has composed songs with lyrics that tell parts of the story. Instead of merely providing musical interludes, the singer, Susan McFadden, is an integral and vital part of the show. The words of her songs are pivotal to the story, as she 'speaks' for or to one or other of the characters. I love this development, although I foresee difficulty when the show travels: it is tricky enough for a native English speaker to catch every word of the lyrics, and foreign ears are bound to miss a lot. The programme book does provide some of the lyrics, but of course few people even see the programme until well after the performance, which is a pity.

Since he broke open the new world in Irish show dancing, Michael Flatley has always said he hoped and believed that the next wave of dancers would come along and take it further into the future and extend the creativity. It can be no coincidence that two of his top stars from Lord of the Dance were involved in this show’s development. Daire and Cian Nolan, the two Limerick brothers so loved and acclaimed by all who saw them in Michael's shows, were primary choreographers, and Cian in the role of King Lir was one of the principal dancers at the show's preview performances. The troupe dances are clear descendants of Lord of the Dance and Feet of Flames, electric and razor-sharp, full of original and colourful formations, and the masculine power of the men’s' line-ups bears the unmistakable stamp of the Nolan brothers and Michael Flatley. Daire and Cian are no longer actively involved in the production nor the company.

Dance of Desire takes the traditional Irish Celtic myth of the Children of Lir and gives it a treatment reminiscent of the Kirov Ballet’s approach to Swan Lake, turning it into a tale with a happy ending. And Lord knows, Irish Celtic myths need that, each one seems to be more dastardly and gloomy than the last! The show also uses artistic license to good effect, altering the time frame of the legend (so that King Lir lives to see justice done and the fairy tale come right), and offering us extra romantic intrigue. This story has it all: the wicked Queen Aoife is deliciously acted and danced by Lisa Anderson, while the regal and benevolent King Lir, a very difficult role, has been growing successfully, interpreted by different dancers (see below). The exotic Milesian Princess Anú is exquisitely portrayed by Tanya Cunningham, and an enormously entertaining and fascinating Goblin is performed superbly by Hungarian Zoltan Papp, whose talent stuns me afresh every time. The supporting cast for most of the summer included the spectacular Clare Casey, who stands out in any troupe, and many other highest quality dancers, some with extensive show experience, including several Lord of the Dance veterans. Angela Burns, sister of Pamela, began her career on the big stage in the line-up on the high levels of the ‘Planet Ireland’ set for Feet of Flames in Hyde Park in 1998, at the young age of fifteen! Now she blossoms in Dance of Desire, shining in all of the different roles she has danced in the show, ending up taking the role of Queen Aoife as Lisa takes a well-earned break. Angela is as dark and exotic as Lisa is slinky and blonde, and gives the part her own touch immediately – clearly a new star is now born!

One of the most interesting things about Dance of Desire is the treatment of the male-female ideal. Gone are any lovely old-fashioned notions of the soft, sweet feminine female and the all-powerful, heroic male! This is the twenty-first century turning things upside down, for here is a very determined, strong Queen, the bitterly jealous Aoife, with her Amazon-like troupe of female warriors. The great King Lir is almost high-kicked off the stage along with his men; the battles are not between two male troupes but male to female, and the outcome is not a foregone conclusion! The portrayal of the sexes in so different and modern a way is one of the show's most powerful points, and adds greatly to the entertainment. I have a feeling that it is only successful because it is so well done; it could very easily look ridiculous, but it works superbly.

The role of the beleaguered King Lir is one of the most challenging. Danced in the first few performances by Cian Nolan, it has since been interpreted by several very talented dancers as the show’s cast rotates. To have impact in this role, as a character surrounded by the power of female vengeance, is no easy task, and it is one which Alan Scariff (brother of Stephen) has conquered with style in many performances through the summer. After him has come Australian Anthony Street, who has brought tremendous dramatic power and outstanding passion to the role. Before the Dublin run finishes, Andrew McCarthy will also explore the lead.

The Gala Premiere performance of Dance of Desire took place at the Ambassador Theatre on May 12th, and on May 30th it celebrated its World Premiere at the Gleneagle Hotel in Killarney, Co. Kerry. Highlights from the show were performed at one of the Special Olympics World Games events in Dublin in June, and the first weekend in August the show performed its first 'on tour' dates in the Town Hall in Galway, by which time the schedule had already begun to be mapped out for overseas engagements well into 2004. Audience numbers have been growing steadily, and I am delighted to hear it. The hardest nut to crack in Irish dancing is still the home gig; the old stigma of 'Who wants to see an Irish dance show?' is sadly not yet dead. I am looking forward to seeing the show go from strength to strength when it is launched out on tour overseas. See the Celtic Cafe's tour schedule for the show by clicking here.

At present, performances are confined to a small venue and audience, but this is a show begging for a bigger stage, a bigger troupe, and arena audiences. The producers tell me they are holding off on making a video until they get the show into larger houses, and I think that is a wise decision. The show has a great future ahead of it, and it will be good to see it recorded a little further down the road. Meanwhile, Celtic Cafe visitors can now meet some of the show's stars as they talk about their lives on and off stage. I wish them all the very best of Irish luck for every performance and for the future.

Throughout this summer I have enjoyed many an evening at this wonderful show and have taken all my visitors and friends to see it. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Dance of Desire producers Michael Carr and Eric Cunningham, tour director and sound engineer Alan Whelan, and all the troupe members for their great welcome and warm hospitality towards me. They have made the summer very special for me.

-- by Ann Keller

Interviews: Ann Keller
Editing: Louise Owen
Feature: Bernadette Price
Original Web Design: Alexander Servas


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