Celtic Dancing. Traditional Irish Dancing. You know, the sort of dancing you have seen with that famous Riverdance group. And whilst I have never seen this form of dance live, I had a vague idea of what to expect. However, never did I expect to have this traditional artform mixed the with magic of illusion. Celebrating their 10-year anniversary, Celtic Illusion Reimagined is touring nationwide and I had the opportunity to witness this production first-hand last night.
The Celtic Illusion crew consists of twelve ensemble dancers, plus a female lead performer in Georgia May, a violinist and flute player with Shimna Higgins and Rennie Pearson respectively, a solo vocalist in Rebecca Harkin, all lead by the charismatic choreographer, director and lead performer, Anthony Street.
As mentioned, this show is more than just Celtic Dance, it is uniquely mixed with the artform of magic and illusion. With Street as the magician and May as the assistant, the pair perform several types of illusionary magic. From disappearing and reappearing on stage to swapping places with each other. The sceptic in me kept looking for the silhouette of the individual in the background and searching for that ‘ahh-ha!’ moment but the illusions are so quick and well executed, I was left awestruck by how they did it.
Of course, a Celtic themed show would not be worthy of the title without some incredibly impressive dance. For those that do not know what it is; picture a duck on the water all cool, calm and collected above the waterline, but frantically moving underneath. The fast-paced high energy leg movements had me exhausted just watching it. I cannot fathom how they manage to keep balance and poise whilst moving so quickly. For most of the show they are also equipped with tap shoes that bring a whole new level of energy to the performance. However, at times, the beat of the backing music had me confused as to whether the sound was the music or the shoes. A simple change in the mixing would fix that. Overall, the tap dancing mixed with the traditional Irish dancing was extremely captivating and impressive.
Celtic Dance would not be complete without the music to back it up and the individual performance by both Shimna Higgins on Violin and Rennie Pearson on Flute are equally impressive. Both perform fast paced, high-energy numbers, including a classic call and response segment in the second act. As mentioned, there is also a vocalist by the name of Rebecca Harkin. Dressing in beautiful, long, sparkling gowns, Harkin takes the stage between performances to allow time for the stage to be reset and the dance troupe to change outfits. Whilst her vocal skills are good; I could not help but be severely distracted by the constant tapping of her fingers on the microphone which took away from her performances.
I thoroughly adored whenever Georgia May was on stage. Shown as the female lead and Anthony Street‘s assistant, I found her presence captivating, with her lines and leaps flawless.
The clear stand out of this show, without any doubt, is Anthony Street. His dancing and tapping were clearly tighter and cleaner than all the other performers and he commanded your attention each time he was on stage. He also moves around on stage quite a lot during the performances and at times, standing in the wings proudly admiring his troupe dance their legs off. Street claps and positively encourages his team every chance he gets and brings a level of genuine positive energy to the stage that you do not often see. Even though Street is the creator of this show, it is hard to imagine it without him.
Overall, Celtic Illusion Reimagined is an unique experience and is one that I never thought I would ever get to be a part of. You could easily dismiss the pairing of Magic and Dance as ridiculous, but it works here and makes for a fun and entertaining night out.
Celtic Illusion Reimagined is on for two nights only with the final performance tonight on the 14th of May at Arts Centre Melbourne’s Playhouse Theatre. For more information and ticketing, visit: