Sunday, October 2, 2011

"Noċtú": Poetry with Dancing Shoes

Review by Judd Hollander

True dancing has passion. Nowhere is that more evident than in the absolutely exquisite Irish dance revue Noċtú, presented by Ériu Dance Company at the Irish Repertory Theatre.

The show is the brainchild of Breandán de Gallaí, who created this intimate work in response to some of the larger spectacles of the same genre, (i.e. Riverdance, Lord of the Dance), in order to show that bigger doesn't always necessarily mean better. He also handles the directing chores for this production.

Photo by Carol Rosegg
'Noctu' is defined as 'to bare, strip or expose' and that is exactly what happens here, with the rending of the outer emotional shells of the various dancers, (three principles - Peter Anderson, Nick O'Connell, Callum Spencer - in particular), and taking the audience below the surface to see what drives these people to attempt to succeed in their profession despite numerous obstacles to the contrary.

While there is an overall plot of the performers being members of a dance troupe, the focus is more on the individual stories of the characters involved; all of which are told through the various dance routines. Among some of the stories presented are a perennial understudy (Anderson) who never gets the chance to shine due to what she (and others) perceive as a lack of talent, and a young man (Spencer) often thought of as being a 'sissy' by his schoolmates because of his interest in dance, and his desperate attempts to convince them (and perhaps himself) otherwise.

Photo by Carol Rosegg
What's truly amazing about the different dances is the power and emotions that Gallaí and the company bring to the individual sequences. Watching the performers move together in perfect synchronization or in the midst of a complicated routine where they must interact with one another perfectly to avoid the breaking of the movement and rhythm is breathtaking. Oftentimes it's impossible for one's eyes to keep up with the movements of the dancers' feet, as they're going so fast they seem to be in a continual blur. Gallaí's direction is amazing here, not only in his ability to keep each sequence flowing smoothly and seamlessly, but also to be able to make the show work in the relatively small confines of the Irish Rep stage.

The music used is excellent. Hopefully the show will be recorded at some point. Among the highlights are the songs 'Night of the Swallow' by Kate Bush and 'Hornpipes' by Seán O'Brien. Other dances feature music by Cake ('I Will Survive'), Björk and Stravinsky, among others.

As the principal dancers, Anderson, O'Connell and Spencer are superb, but this is not to take away anything from the rest of the company; all of whom embody at times airs of fatalism, contempt, anger and menace, depending on the story being told.

A superb blending of dance and human emotions, Noċtú is one of the best shows of the 2011-2012 season and one that should definitely be seen by all - and as many times as possible.

Dancers: Jack Anderson, Peta Anderson, Ellen Bonner, Orlagh Carty, Joseph Comerford, Niamh Darcy, Gyula Glaser, James Greenan, Kyla Marsh, Megan McElhatton, Ashlene McFadden, Kienan Melino, Nick O'Connell, Katrina O'Donnell, Aislinn Ryan, Callum Spencer

Conceived and directed by Breandán de Gallaí
Lighting Design: Michael O'Connor
Costume Design: Nikki Connor
Original Music: Joe Csibi
Script Consultant Seán De Gallaí

Irish Repertory Theatre

132 West 22nd Street
Tickets: 212-727-2737 or
Running Time: 75 Minutes
Closes: October 2, 2011

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