Ennis dancing entrepreneur Michael Donnellan brings his international show The Rhythms of Ireland to his native stage this April.
Michael first began dancing at the age of five at the O’Rourke school of Dance in Ennis and he has two world dance championships under his belt. When he retired from the competitive dance scene at 21, another avenue opened up.
He took on lead roles with Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance and then performed in over 1,000 shows with Riverdance. The opportunity to choreograph and direct his own production came about in 1999 when his first stage show Magic of the Dance went on tour and it continues to tour currently.
Having acquired a grá for this type of work, Michael produced his newest production, Rhythms of Ireland, which has been touring the international stage since 2007. Rhythms of Ireland features a host of stellar performers, who boast world championship dance titles and/or lead performances in shows such as Lord of the Dance or Riverdance.
The production has been highly successful on tour in Australia, Asia and Europe from 2007 to 2012 but Michael felt it was time to bring his work home and, this April, local audiences will get the opportunity to catch it at Glór.
“This is the first time anything that I’ve produced is coming to my home town so it is a fairly big deal. I will be more nervous naturally in front of a home crowd. The Rhythms of Ireland is an innovative show that has gone back to the old ceolchoirim idea with a modern twist.
“It features dancers, singers, musicians and there are some Clare champion dancers in there as well. Shows before this have gone with the en-mass productions of 40 dancers-plus, we have 20 in our cast and they were all headhunted. It is an elite cast,” Michael said.
The show includes a variety of elements from the 100 miles an hour showstoppers to flamenco, sean nós, céilí dancing, Irish step and set dancing. The production also encompasses a lighting spectacle as well as interaction with the audience.
Michael is also shaking off his own dancing shoes and promises the local crowd he will dance a couple of numbers.
He noted there are so many avenues open to those who now decide to learn Irish dancing and there are plenty of career opportunities available to dancers, be it in teaching or in performing and travelling with a large show such as The Rhythms of Ireland.
He admits himself that he has not worked a day in his life despite all the hard graft putting these productions together. He is just delighted that his 9 to 5 means he continues to do something he loves.
“I’ve never worked a day in my life, I don’t consider it work. I am a qualified PE teacher and I have a Masters in Dance from the University of Limerick and I adored that but I love working with young people and I feel there is no better way to marry them all together. There is no better feeling. It is not work. To bring it home is very special for me,” he added.
The show evokes a time and place steeped in legend, lore and enchantment, while offering an authentic Irish cultural experience.
“Legend, folklore and enchantment are interwoven in a voyage of discovery without falling into the trap of sentimentality. That’s not to deny that some passages make the hairs on the nape of the neck rise… the troupe’s adaptation echoes the past, as the dancers seem to fly across the stage to the beat of the bodhrán and the soaring notes of the fiddle,” Michael noted.
As well as featuring Ennis’s own Michael Donnellan, The Rhythms of Ireland features Anthony Street, lead male dancer of Lord Of The Dance and Deirdra Kiely, a 23-year-old champion dancer from Waterford, who was the female lead in RAGUS. It also includes a cast of 14 dancers with extensive experience with major international productions thus ensuring a standard of excellence and quality in performance.
Music direction is provided by all-Irish champion Martin O’Connell and Thomas Johnston, an uilleann piper and whistle player from a strong piping tradition in Monaghan. They will be accompanied by live musicians Lisa Murphy from Belfast and the multi-talented David Delaney.
The Rhythms of Ireland will be on the Glór stage from April 25 to 27 where they will perform each night at 8pm.