Interview with Kieran Cavanagh
Producer, RHYTHM OF THE DANCE
Q. So Kieran tell me how it all started for Rhythm of the Dance?
A. Back in 1998 I got the opportunity for our Irish dancers to tour America with our National Orchestra. The tour was such a success that we then toured Scandinavia in March & April of 1999 without the Orchestra, as it was much too expensive to move the National Orchestra around. Now here we are all those years later still touring the world for 40 weeks of the year every year.
Q. You have now played in 50 countries I believe across four continents. Tell me of your experiences around the world and the highlights over the last decade or more…
A. It never ceases to amaze me how many countries we have actually toured and some of them are non-English speaking territories like Russia, where we generally start a tour as far over as Siberia and then work our way back to Moscow over a 5 week period of one-nighters going from town to town overnight by train. It’s pretty amazing and the people come out and fill the theaters and sometimes bring Celtic song books and literature with them to show to us and we have sometimes even played music with them in our hotel. They cannot communicate with us, only through the music. It’s fantastic to see this happen, how music can bring different nations and cultures together. One of the biggest highlights for me was when we were invited to perform in Shenzhen City in China for the Millennium New Year’s Eve TV special.We had an 8-minute slot and the show was broadcast to 1 Billion viewers in Asia on CCTV. Can you imagine being able to reach that big of an audience in one TV show? It was amazing and I was emotional when it happened, it was our finest hour for sure and we now tour China every year.
Q. You have also toured places like Taiwan, Lithuania, Romania, Serbia, Egypt, China, India, South America , North America, Adriatic region, Russia, Poland, UK, the list goes on and on, it is truly an International production.
A. We cover a lot of Territories around the world annually and we try to create and open new markets all the time.
Q. I have seen the show and I cannot believe the pace of your dancers! How do they keep that up for two hours?
A. Well it’s pretty frantic to watch alright, however our cast have been dancing and trained since they were four years old and they are incredibly fit and have to take care of their body and their diet. But each day at the Venue we have a dance captain in the show who will have a drill with the dancers prior to the performance, where they get to warm up their muscles and exercise and the rest come natural to them.
Q. You also have a great band in the show and I didn’t even know what some of the instruments were. Can you explain what instruments you have in the band?
A.OK, well first all our musicians play live on stage and that to me in very important and I have always prided myself on continuing to carry a big band around the world to play our music live to the audience.We have an array of instruments, like the Flautist, Fiddle, Accordion, Bodhran drum, Whistles, & Banjo, so there is a vast array of musical instruments in the show and it is not unusual for one musician to play several instruments.
Q. You also have singer(s) and I have to say they were great and very entertaining.
A.I always had a boy & girl vocalist and because we play repeat territories annually, I always keep the show fresh. When I introduced some Tenors to the show some years ago , they were an instant hit and they still wow the audiences every night. And of course they give our dancers a much needed breather and time to change costumes, as we have about 25 costume changes in the show which is a lot, especially sometimes when the dancers have literally just seconds to make that change to a new costume or it could be switching shoes from the hard shoe, which makes the loud tap on the stage, to the soft shoe which is for what we call light pieces of dance.
Q. What can the audience expect when they go to see Rhythm of the Dance and what separates you from Riverdance, how is your show different?
A. The audience can expect to visit Ireland for 2 hours, they will leave the theater feeling that they have been on a trip around Ireland and they will have a strong impression of our culture and our music. Irish music is loved all over the world as is our Dance now. I think what sets Rhythm of the Dance apart from Riverdance is that we tend to be a bit more traditional and purist and we rely less on the technical support than other shows do, like Pyro’s & large lighting rigs, although we do carry quite a lavish production.
Q. Where do you recruit your dancers? Does The National Dance Company Of Ireland have their own Dance Academy or do you advertise to find dancers?
A. Our choreographer runs our dance studio. We always have a wealth of dancers available to the show, which is a great tribute to the show and my creative team.
Q. What does the future hold for Rhythm of the Dance?
A. Irish dance continues to be hugely popular all over the world and I believe that Rhythm of the Dance will be around for many years to come. We remain true to the art form and keep making the show interesting and entertaining for the audience, that’s the most important factor. I would hope we have many good years of touring ahead of us.
Q. You are offering a streamed performance now. This is new isn’t it?
A. Yes. The pandemic cancelled all tours. The streaming company WatchLive came to my attention. We taped one of our live shows in September 2019 using six cameras that turned out really well. It has not been made available for public viewing of any kind. We have teamed with WatchLive to make it available to theaters world-wide to offer to their audiences during this St. Patrick’s Day season. The response has been gratifying. We are considering continuing making a show available to places where our live tours are not yet possible.
Q. Kieran Cavanagh, it’s been great talking to you and I love your show, do you have a final word for our readers?
A. Come and enjoy a magical 2-hour Irish experience. You’ll be glad you did. It really is out of this world as seen by 7 million people in 50 countries, and as we say in our commercials, ENJOY THE PASSION, THE ENERGY, THE RHYTHM. The Rhythm of the Dance.
This event is sponsored in part by Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs.
Behind the scenes of Tecumseh Center for the Arts.