Volume 92, Issue 25

Tuesday, October 20, 1998

coughing up debt


Tapping into the Irish force

By Matt Pearson
Gazette Writer

The Gaelforce winds of Irish folk dancing blew onto campus Saturday night for a one-night spectacle at the Thompson Arena.

Gaelforce Dance, a troupe of close to 50 Irish folk dancers, was founded in Sydney, Australia and has been on tour since May 1997. Led by three-time Irish folk dancing world champion James Devine, the troupe is currently finishing a cross-Canada tour before heading into the United States and Mexico.

The show, performed nightly, is essentially about family. It's a story about three brothers who depart on separate journeys and after storms, conflicts and the death of the youngest brother, they realize family is the strongest bond. In the introduction and in the promotional program, the show's theme seems pretty clear – no matter how far you travel, you can never escape yourself. It's like The Wizard of Oz meets Irish folk dancing. Unfortunately, the written word's clarity was lost in translation and the live telling of the story was, at best, confusing.

The dynamic opening number was tight, crisp and packed with energy. Devine, always in the center, does some fancy footwork – in June, he set the Guinness World Record for most taps, achieving 38 in a second. The music has a typical Celtic sound, with a live six-person orchestra and one vocalist to complete the Irish experience. As for costuming, the show ran the gamut from Celtic to funky, from leggings to leopard skins.

The second half began with a pub scene and participation by the audience. Michael Durkan, executive producer ofGaelforce Dance, came on stage with his guitar to play some folk songs and tell a few jokes. It remains the highlight of the evening as it gave the audience an impression of Irish culture. Combined with all of the other aspects, it transformed the show from a dance performance to a full-out Irish show.

The finale, the most exhilarating part, ended with all of the dancers on stage – 17 in a line and Devine in the center. The magnitude of their abilities was tremendous, with their legs tied together in a fury of taps completely in sync and seemingly effortless.

Regretfully, Gaelforce Dance appeared at the acoustically-disinclined Thompson Arena. The sound was overbearing and almost distracting. There appeared, at times, to be an echo to the already existing echo. And the expensive floor seats were all on the same level, leaving ticket holders standing for the bulk of the performance.

In the end, the Gaelforce winds that brought this fine troupe to Western to perform an energetic show were the same winds that blew them away, leaving behind only memories of the tap.

To Contact The Arts and Entertainment Department: gazette.entertainment@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1998