October 24th, 2014

Heartbeat of Home review

ShowbizBy Jim Gallagher
Heartbeat of home
Heartbeat of home

The thunderous standing ovation on opening night summed up what the audience thought of it.

The applause for Heartbeat of Home, the glitzy new music and dance show of Moya Doherty and John McColgan at Dublin’s Bord Gais Theatre, lasted several minutes as the superb band then played one last number to the accompaniment of wall to wall hand-clapping.

We were told there were similar accolades every night of the previews. But exciting as it is in parts, this new dance extravaganza is no Riverdance. The second half in particular offers some exhilarating moments, with spectacular dance sequences and even a few dollops of humour. But what is the show about? We had to turn to the programme to find out.

“Heartbeat of Home doesn’t try to be literal in its storytelling. It takes place in a dreamland of oceans and starlight,” writes Joseph O’Connor, who put together the lyrics.

“Neon-shining cities of the 21st Century and epic, open spaces. After the dream-voyage of Act One, Act Two is built around a wedding, the whole piece a love-story of what might happen if beautiful cultures met in a vision.”

Oh, right! That explains that then. A big devotee of Riverdance, which I had seen in New York, Dublin, Belfast and Killarney, I had expected to be swept away from the very start. But it did not happen. There were none of those hair-standing-on-the-back-of-your-neck moments as Act One moved on but failed to draw me in.

In fact one dreamy sequence with dancers moving in billowing white costumes had me drifting off, wondering what I would be doing the next day. The first act ended with a familiar Riverdance-style crescendo of foot-tapping which finally got my adrenalin pumping.

Then after the interval came Act Two, a different affair altogether, performed at a much higher tempo. It even opened with humour with a young male dancer phoning home with those immortal emigrant words: “Send money.” There was huge applause for a dance re-enactment of that famous photo of workers resting on a girder high above New York’s Rockefeller Centre.

And there then followed a feast of different dance styles, from salsa and flamenco to street and tango as the pace kept up to the very end, climaxing in all 29 dancers hitting the stage in a furious, exciting, deafening finale.

Heartbeat of Home has been packing them in on its home turf. How it will do abroad, without an obvious storyline or even a high profile leading couple, we shall see.

Heartbeat of Homes runs until October 12.