Phil Hopkins, Group Travel Editor & Theatre Correspondent

Overblown But Enjoyable - Spirit Of The Dance

David King, producer of Spirit of the Dance, has a nice line in modesty, referring to himself as ‘the working man’s Andrew Lloyd Webber’ on the company website.

In fact, there are more flattering adjectives about the show in each paragraph of the site’s digital copy than Dr Johnson probably has on each page of his daily diary: breath-taking, runaway express train, powerful and so the list goes on.

But then, Mr King probably had a hand in penning the copy!

My version varies a little. This is a good, entertaining, workmanlike show but, however, many people the website claims have witnessed ‘the world’s greatest Irish dance show’ (quoted from the International Post, whoever they are?), numbers don’t necessarily equal greatness.

Without doubt the dancers work their butts off and ten out of ten for sheer gutsy hard work and energy. But, the production as a whole? It is one backcloth, a stage riser to the rear of the stage and a range of costume changes with a lot of ‘group’ choreography heavily doused with Irish reels. Riverdance it is not.

That said the girls are excellent and if ‘tits and teeth’ matter (it is a euphemism screamed at boys and girls by countless choreographers!) then smile they did – more so than the four lads – and they held their heads up high with their chests firmly out.

However, the ‘vehicle’ for this talent was a show without a middle; there was no storyline or hook despite an opening that promised much: lots of Celtic music and a masked man uttering some indiscernible words who looked as if he had strayed out of the Phantom set.

But I still enjoyed this theatrical hybrid, rooted in Irish Dance with Latino rhythms of Tango, Flamenco and Salsa.

Some of the evening’s ‘arms’ were a little loose (where was the Dance Captain?) and there was the odd stage collision, however, the stage edge hand clap routine, something I have seen in Crazy for You, was faultless and fast, very fast. Not a finger out of place.

And yes, the audience loved it, all of it. Nevertheless, Spirit of the Dance was on at St George’s because it is not sophisticated enough to fill a grade one theatre like the Alhambra.

It needed to be a little tighter and more authentic (fewer pre-recorded taps and singing) with an evolving storyline.

The last time I saw Riverdance Mr Flatley made an impromptu appearance on video. However, whilst Riverdance and Spirit of the Dance are from the same stable – namely the Irish tradition – there the comparison must end.

But, one thing is for sure, Flatley and ‘Spirit’ producer David King clearly appear to have large egos and, I’m sure, would each prove themselves fine specimens for Sigmund Freud were the great man still around! A good foot-tapping evening.

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