Mellen Events EireborneUntil last night my favourite Irish dancer has been Wharf Revue’s Jonathan Biggins. Maybe his technique won’t win him any medals, but it’s certainly entertaining.

But that was before I attended Eireborne – a slick polished celebration of Irish dance which attracted a capacity audience to the Canberra Theatre last night. Sorry Jonathan, you’re going to have to lift your game.

Irish dance is one of the most demanding of the dance style’s with the attention focussed on the lower half of the body for intricate percussive footwork, with the hands and arms held rigidly by the sides.

In creating the choreography for Eireborne celebrated Irish dance exponent Peta Anderson, herself a veteran of International Irish Dance shows on Broadway and Internationally, has surrounded herself with ten top Irish dancers, mostly from around Australia but including also a couple of Internationals, and taken the opportunity to push the boundaries of traditional Irish dance to create a succession of eye-bogglingly complex dance routines.

As most of the dancers have been competitors in the Irish World Dance Championships, including the current World Irish Dance Champion, 19 year-old Liam Costello, who was crowned the World Irish Dance Champion for the third time this year, the standard of the dancing throughout was high.

In creating her choreography Anderson released her dancers from the upper body rigidity to include choreographed arm movements in a fast-moving series of striking routines performed to the music of Enya, U2, The Cranberries, Van Morrison and other popular Irish artists, all played live by a superb band of six multi-instrumentalists under the musical direction of percussionist, Andy Horvath.

Her choreography included clever props including brooms and sound-boxes and to add additional flash and dazzle Anderson incorporated ball-room dancers, Alexandra Vladimirov and William Tukia-Edwards into her routines. At one-point they performed a stunning tango which included elements of Irish dance in the choreography.

Happy leprechaun, Pete Murphy proved a jovial host, keeping to his script with informative, entertaining patter and charming with his superb vocals. Sharing solos and duets with Murphy was glamorous vocalist Reigan Derry; their vocals adding attractive enhancement to the seamless flow of captivating song and dance.

A particular highlight of the evening was a potted history of the development of Irish Dance over the years. This included a tantalisingly brief snippet by current World Champion, Liam Costello, performing in competition mode. Elsewhere Costello danced brilliantly as an ensemble member but it seemed a shame not to have included the routine which won him his current crown.

A notable feature of Eireborne was the impressive production values surrounding the excellent performances. The simple attractive setting backed by colourful well-chosen constantly changing LED screens, smart contemporary costuming, remarkably disciplined lighting design, and highly polished performances, together with the gentle understated humour which permeated the show was recognised and rewarded throughout with vociferous applause by the delighted audience.

Canberra Theatre Centre, Civic Square, London Circuit, Canberra
Performance: Saturday 20 August 2022

Eireborne will play Newcastle’s Civic Theatre on Monday 22 August 2022. For more information about Eireborne, visit: www.mellenevents.com.au for details.

Image: The Cast of Eireborne (supplied)

Review: Bill Stephens OAM