And the dancer smiled!
From the opening notes of Mo Ghiolla Mear to the rousing toe-tapping finish, I enjoyed every minute of Pulses of Tradition at the magnificent Triskel venue last night. There is a talented team onstage here - the lively show runs into mid September - and they fully deserved their standing ovation from an audience that came from Cork but mainly from abroad, from France , Poland, Spain, Canada, even Mexico!
The story of the developments in Irish music and dance is illustrated in the most engaging way but also with expertise. We got Sean nós, we got hard shoe and soft shoe dance, Sliabh Luachra and set dances, sad songs and merry ones, we got fiddle, piano, accordion, tin whistles, guitar and bodhrán and lots of craic.
The technique was top notch. Hard to take it all in but we were helped by the big screen. But even high tech cameras could hardly keep up with the impressive dancers and sometimes ghost images appeared where the feet had been a millisecond earlier. But while the technique was everywhere, the ensemble made it look easy and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves as the performance unfolded.
I reckon members of this talented team could get a “game” anywhere. They showed, as we all know now, that our music and dance is a living thing, influenced by from other countries just as surely as we have influenced the music of others.
And even without the influences, there can be similarities. And that was so well illustrated by Eoin Coughlan. In the earlier part of the show, he had a seemingly modest role, playing guitar and doing some of the announcing.
But he was a different animal when he got his solo run. After the rousing Bulrush song, he produced the bodhrán and belted out Bean Dubh an Ghleanna. Then, with just a little warning, he started doing some amazing Indian vocal drumming and kept dancer Andrew Vickers going. Brilliant.
But not the only brilliant turn of this very entertaining evening. There was so much more: the singing of Elaine Cormican (including The Banks), the contributions of Uilleann pipe maestro Mikey Smith, and the accordion pieces, not to mention the Kilnamartyra wit of Richard Lucey (who can also dance a bit!).
And yes the fantastic dancers smiled. A far cry from the parish feis of the 50s when they danced poker faced on the back of a truck or some such. That kind of thing, like compulsory fish on Friday making fish a penance and giving it a bad name, could have killed off the dancing.
But thanks to places such as Sliabh Luachra, to the Fleadhs of later decades, and indeed to Riverdance, the music and the dance, our music and dance, survived and thrived.
Pulses of Tradition is playing every Thursday and Saturday night in the Triskel auditorium, a converted church where the old pews are your seats. It is worth going to see this unusual conversion on its own but that is just a bonus if you go to see this music, song and dance display expertly executed by some of our talented good humoured performers. Church was never like this!