Top note Irish dancing
RISH musical director and musician Thomas Johnston returns to the Gold Coast next week with The Rhythms of Ireland.
Johnston, 29, has played traditional Irish music since he was seven and is now an accomplished player of the tin whistle and uilleann pipes (Irish bagpipes). His co-musical director on the show, Martin O’Connell, is a fivetime All Ireland champion button accordion player.
‘‘We have new numbers, even in terms of the visuals and instrumentals,’’ Thomas says. ‘‘It is reworked, rejigged, and visually very beautiful.’’
Riverdance, which had its birth at the interval of the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest in Ireland, and Lord of the Dance, created by choreographer and dancer Michael Flatley when he left Riverdance in 1995 after a row over creative control, are very different to The Rhythms of Ireland.
‘‘( Rhythms) doesn’t tell a story,’’ says Thomas, who has been with the show since its inception in 1998.
‘‘That was a conscious decision. Music is the strength of the show. It’s in the songs and how they are presented. Rhythms is a more personal show. When Riverdance and Lord of the Dance came into being, they pushed out (the boundaries of) Irish dancing so much.
‘‘We don’t want it to be hardly recognisable, so we have it grounded in traditional music.’’
Thomas says he drew on what he has known since childhood; the old-style music, performed in pubs and family homes accompanied by traditional instruments such as the bodhran and fiddle.
Choreography is also a huge part of the show, which has been seen by more than three million people worldwide. It has 14 dancers and singers, and a plethora of Irish solo dancing stars. Female lead Anna McGuire, a world Irish dancing champion, also performed in Riverdance, and male lead Anthony Street was lead dancer in Lord of the Dance.
Thomas’ favourite parts in this year’s show are a humorous song about an old man going to the fair, and the set dance.
plays The Arts Centre Gold Coast on Monday at 8pm. Tickets are $69.90.