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SPIRIT OF THE DANCE (article first published : 2003-06-12)

Back for a return season after its sell-out run a while back, Spirit of the Dance was a triumph on all counts when it opened last night in a packed Playhouse Opera. A triumph not least for the grand theatre itself which has hosted an impressive string of musicals in its time with the powerful Queen at the Opera still standing as a hard act to follow. As the show progressed smoothly, at least from the audience’s perspective, the Opera proved that it can still host a highly technical and complicated production and come out on top.

Presented by The Irish International Dance Company, winner of nine Global Awards and seen by more than 20 million people around the world, the show includes seven South African dancers. The rest come from the UK with one from the USA.

Thanks to input from Gearhouse, which is travelling with the show throughout South Africa, Peter Kramer’s lighting design is simply magnificent. The dancers are well-disciplined and their exuberance and apparent delight in their work also contribute much to the show’s success.

Irish in origin Spirit of the Dance also includes Latino rhythms of tango and flamenco and there’s a Scottish sword dance to excite the senses. Unfortunately, I was too close to the stage to be able to see the dancers’ feet properly as they danced around the weapons.

Good performances came from Louise Barbuti as the spirit, Melissa Marshall (lead female) and Scott Gillies as Danny Boy but it was fiddle player Simon Painter who brought the house down with his virtuoso performance. Completely at one with his instrument, he leapt about the stage like a delighted leprechaun without missing a beat, gradually - and literally - letting his hair down in the process!

The set design was impressive and took advantage of the full scale of the Opera stage. The smoke machine didn’t go into overdrive as it does too often in local productions but was used just enough to create the desired lighting effects.

Choreographer and director Alan Harding has put together a spectacular production although I did feel that the show lacked a certain cutting edge spark and the choreography was fairly repetitive. However, this didn’t matter one jot to last night’s ecstatic audience which called for encore after encore.

Spirit of the Dance runs from June 10 to 15. Booking is at Computicket

PS: Stand by for Spirit of Broadway from June 17 to 22. This show was created in response to continued pleas for another spectacular with the same creative talent and showbiz pizzazz. The new song-and-dance star-spangled show includes such blockbusters as Chicago, My Fair Lady, Grease, 42nd Street, A Chorus Line and The Phantom of the Opera.

More information can be found at www.spiritofthedance.com – Caroline Smart




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