‘Rhythm of the Dance’: The quintessential Irish experience

March 4, 2012 Updated: March 21, 2012
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The National Dance Company of Ireland is returning to the Markham Theatre March 9 and 10 with “Rhythm of the Dance,” one of the most popular Irish step dance shows in the world. 

Choreographed by veteran dancer Doireann Carney who toured the world with hit-shows Riverdance and Rhythms of Ireland, Rhythm of the Dance features a live band, the three-member group The Young Irish Tenors, and 22 dancers. 

The show has been touring consistently for 11 years and has performed in 36 countries on 4 continents. 

The framework for the show is a survey of Irish history. Not only can we experience Ireland’s oldest dance traditions, but newer ones as well. The quintessential Irish experience is a given, but a taste of the Irish diaspora, of which Canada is a part, is also in the program. 

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Large productions like Rhythm of the Dance are easy to sit down and enjoy without much thought, but for more critical patrons, here are some hints. Experts on Irish dance may skip to the end for the box office info.

Irish dancing is divided into two types, soft-shoe and hard-shoe dances. Soft shoes resemble laced ballet slippers, and hard shoes are used percussively on the floor.

The modern style Irish dance that is performed in competition and on stage features a stiff upper body and hands held tight to the sides. This helps us focus on the intricate foot movements and rhythms. A more traditional style includes looser arms with hands on the hips.

When watching a solo, intricate footwork is performed with the emphasis on precise rhythmical figures. The rhythm and movements are repeated symmetrically emphasizing first one foot then the other. It’s a challenge, just like writing with your left hand—you need ambidextrous feet!

Group dances called céilí are modelled on group dancing performed at weddings, parties and festivals where men and women dance together. Couples weave through numerous patterns exchanging partners as they go. In traditional Irish dancing these dances can be very long and are often shorted for stage performance. 

Irish dancing goes hand in hand with Irish music, with specific musical forms linked to corresponding dances. If you are not familiar with popular Irish tunes, you guess what you’re seeing and hearing by picking out the time signature. A reel is danced in quick 4/4, a jig in 6/8, and a slip jig in 9/8.

March Break Fun

For those of you in Midtown who haven’t been to the Markham Theatre, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. It’s a lovely, bright venue with state-of-the art sound and—get this, downtown patrons—free and abundant parking 30 minutes from the downtown core off Hwy 404. 

During March break legendary Canadian children’s performers Judy & David are presenting their latest musical Goldirock, a rockin’ new take on the Goldilocks story.

Scrap Arts Music, the Canadian blend of Stomp and Blue Man Group, are also at the Markham Theatre while the kids are out of school.

Epoch Times Readers Get a Special Welcome

Readers of The Epoch Times can receive a discount on tickets to “Rhythm of the Dance” and “DRUM!” by calling the box office with the promo code EPOCH. 

Rhythm of the Dance will be at the Markham Theater March 9 and 10 for three shows. For more information visits www.markhamtheatre.ca or call 905-305-7469