Rhythm of the dance -- a wow of a show

Linda Saholt

News Review Correspondent

The eagerly awaited Irish hard shoe concert, “Rhythm of the Dance,” scored a solid hit with the Ridgecrest audience. “It’s a wow of a show!” said Carl Helmick Jr., business manager for the Indian Wells Valley Concert Association. “For Ridgecrest, this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

The concert earned a standing ovation from the packed house — and the entire audience remained standing all through the group’s encore number. I went home with hands sore from applauding but with a happy grin from the fabulous entertainment.

The fifth in IWVCA’s 2012-13 season, the concert was held March 13 in Burroughs High School’s Parker Performing Arts Center. Tickets sold out early.

Irish hard shoe dancing looks something like tap and folk dancing combined. Hard shoes with shiny metal taps are worn by male and female dancers alike. The dancers keep their upper bodies as still as possible while their feet execute intricate and lively steps and kicks. They seem to be airborne more than they touch down, as though they just use the floor to push off from. Bright, sparkling costumes with simple lines show off the moves without detracting. The cast included 19 dancers, five band members and three tenors.

Between dance numbers, the Young Irish Tenors performed, singing traditional Irish songs. Both dancers and singers were accompanied by a band of ethnic instruments, including a Celtic harp, flute, violin, Uilleann pipes (small, mellow type of bagpipe), guitar, melodeon (small accordion), penny whistle and bodhran (frame drum).

The group brought their own backdrop, painted with Celtic knot patterns and swirling triskeles. Colored stage lights changed the backdrop to intense red, bright green, hazy blue or golden shades as needed.

Some dances were done by women only, some by men only, some by both together. Several of the lead female dancers danced en pointe in the hard shoes. One danced inside a metal tray that couldn’t have been more than 15 inches in diameter.

Two of the men’s dances were performed a cappella — just their rapid-fire feet, sounding out a melodious and infectious rhythm. In another piece, a bodhran player and five dancers did a challenge — first the drummer played a tricky rhythm, then the dancers answered back with their lightning-fast steps. One dance was performed by one female and eight male dancers, all carrying and dancing with . . . brooms. This dance was a nod to an ancient marriage custom — the “jumping of the broom.”

The dance troupe came to this country from Ireland in December for this American tour. They specified that the stage had to have a “Marley”-type floor, which gives dancers a particular feel and response. The IWVCA rented this flooring for the concert.

“In 40 years in Ridgecrest, we’ve never seen a show like this,” said Helmick, “The mass precision and coordination throughout, with the intricate and elaborate music for an entire two-hour program, was just amazing.”

For more information about “Rhythm of the Dance, see www.rhy

thmofthedance.com. For more information about the IWVCA, see www.iwvca.com.

Story First Published: 2013-03-20