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Author Topic: Heartbeat of Home - February 7, 2014  (Read 2518 times)
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« on: February 09, 2014, 05:07:08 PM »

Last Friday my sister decided to surprise me with an early birthday present by taking me to see "Heartbeat of Home". This was a very energetic and exciting production, and I recommend that anyone who has the opportunity to go out and watch it. Heartbeat of Home was produced by the producers of Riverdance. It's a type of fusion of Irish, Latin and Afro-Cuban music and dance. Real credit must be given to the composers, performers and musicians for their skill in weaving together these three different styles so seamlessly. The show is running in Toronto from January 21 to March 2. It is then moving on to Chicago, Detroit and Boston in March and April. So for those who can't make it to Toronto, you have options.

Getting There
Although I live in Toronto, it still takes me about an hour to get downtown in rush hour. I would not recommend driving downtown. With the weather and the snow, drivers are quite reckless (even more so than they usually are) and parking is about $25. Your best option is to park at a local subway station and take the train for $3. So that's what I did and I arrived in fairly good time.

The Show
Much like Riverdance, the show consists of several song and dance numbers woven together to tell a story. What's different from Riverdance is that we're not just telling the Irish immigrant story of leaving home and coming to a new world, but of meeting other immigrants who came before and are also making new lives in the New World; and all these cultures fusing together to create something new in this new world. This is what makes the show really interesting

Scene 1: Heartbeat - This is a big dance number which included the whole cast. It starts off solely Irish, with just the Irish dancers and music. As the song progresses it slowly transforms into Latin and Afro-Cuban music. Without even realizing it, the song and dance styles have changed right before your very eyes. It is very skilfully done.

Scene 2: Emigrant's Lament - This a beautiful soulful melody played on the Uilleann pipes by Lottie Cullen. This scene symbolizes the sadness and hardships in having to leave one's home. In the background is a white screen where they project images (like the one Celtic Woman used in the Christmas special) and there is an image of straw hut/home burning in the distance as this sad melody is played.

Scene 3: Farewell to the Homeplace - This is a continuation of the Emigrant's lament.

Scene 4: Tempest - For those who remember Lord of the Dance this resembles the scene with the warriors (the ones all dressed in black). The dancers are dressed in black, quasi-military like outfits dancing hard and occasionally yelling out. What distinguishes this from the Lord of the Dance scene is that there are men and women in this dance number, so seeing the female dancers in their military-like outfits with looks of anger on the their faces dancing alongside the men was different. This scene symbolizes the resilience of the immigrants as they fight to survive.

Scene 5: Waltz of the Wild Wind Sea - This is the first vocal performance of the night and we hear our featured vocalist, Lucia Evans. Lucia is both a powerful and soulful singer and will sing a few other powerful melodies before the night is over. This song is about taking chances and trying your luck in the New World.

Scene 6: Danza Pasion - Now we get a look at the Spanish immigrant story. Two very skilled flamenco dancers take to the floor, Stefano Domit and Rocio Montoya. Rocio is an incredible combination of elegance and power, her flamenco moves are quite mesmerizing. Stefano can "tap" with incredible speed, a skill he displaces in other songs as well later in the show. It's a very entertaining number.

Scene 7: Reel Roots - Now we focus on the band who takes center stage in this number (the risers they sit on literally move to the center of the stage). During this number our featured violinist, Athena Tergis, walks back and forth on stage while simultaneously playing. The brass playing is also very strong during this number.

Scene 8: Baila Conmigo - Continuing off of the high energy of the last number we get a Latin/Cuban performance. The music and dancing is reminiscent of a Latin night club filled with Salsa dancing and loud brass. Once again, a whole of energy in this number.

Scene 9: Stardance - We go back to Irish culture now and our featured Bodhran player, Robbie Harris (who will only be there until February 16th) takes over. He is a lot of fun and really interacts with the crowd. His playing is similar to Ray Fean's (I suppose there is only so much you can do with a Bodhran), but the melody is completely different, of course. At one point he picks up speed and the audience tries to clap along, but then he stops playing, hold out his hand to the audience and shakes his head no, almost as if he is telling us "not yet". The audience starts laughing. (Later in the show he would come back with another solo where he divides the audience in two and starts pointing to us to clap along at different times, having us compete with each other). Then the head Irish male lead Bobby Hodges comes out and he has a "duel" with the Bodhran player. He is soon joined by the other Irish dancers.

Scene 10: Dreamdance - This is a slow gentle instrumental moment.

Scene 11: Lead Me Home / Reel of Arrivals - This starts off with an inspirational song by our vocalist. It symbolizes the hope of reaching a new home. After the song all the dancers take to the stage in a celebratory dance. It's a great way to close the first half of the show.

2nd Half

Scene 12: Fiesta Mundo - So now our immigrants have reached the new world. But unlike Riverdance where our Irish dancers end up in North America and are heckled by the jazz/tap dancers, our riverdancers end up in what appears to Latin America. They start dancing with their hurley sticks in the local Latin/Cuban club and a type of dance duel ensues, as the locals have never seen this strange kind of dancing before. But they quickly find a way to merge the styles and it's one great big party. One of the more amusing parts of this song is when the Irish lead tries to make a phone call home because he has been partying too long and has run of money, but then hears a dial tone saying that his parent's number is no longer in service (like parents who send their kids off to school, and then their kids need more money cause they've been partying too much). Everyone in the audience started laughing when they heard the dial tone and the "out of service" message.

Scene 13: Don't Slip Jig - In this scene we see some very clever use of the stage. The white screen in the back is used to create a type of virtual reality image so you feel like you're being elevated and moving among skyscrapers. While these moving scenes are projected on the white background, the stairs on stage simultaneously move. Even though you're sitting still in your seat you feel like you're moving. While this is going on a lone trumpeter plays a very mellow jazz solo. When the moving stops we see a bunch of dancers on what seems to be a huge beam hundreds of feet in the air, among the clouds. I believe they are trying to create the immigrant experience of working in construction on skyscrapers. This scene is fun because some of the riverdancers pretend to be scared of heights as they dance on the stairs, which is supposed to be a beam up in the clouds.

Scene 14: Taking Flight - Using the "virtual reality" system we start soaring through images of canyons and rivers and bridges in the far distance. The viewer is made to feel as if you are an eagle soaring through distant and far reaching landscapes of the new world. Our Uilleann piper plays a very beautiful melody as we soar. The whole "experience" is simply incredible. Just imagine hand-gliding through open skies seeing beautiful sceneries while beautiful Celtic music plays. It's like a moment frozen in time, one of my favourite parts of the show. The creators were really "genius" when they came up with this part. Simply outstanding.

Scene 15: Latin Groove - This is a medley of 5 different dance numbers (Flamenco Fuego, Streetbeat, Tango Nuevo, Cuba Cuba and Drum Dance). At one time or another all the dancers are taking part. There is a lot going on here as all the different cultures are fused together in different combinations.

Some of the highlights include the speed of Stefano Domit's flamenco tapping and Rocio Montoya's graceful and precise flamenco moves during Flamenco Fuego.

In Streetbeat you've got "hip hop" style dancers taking to the floor; then, as a surprise some of the riverdancers try to merge this street style with their own, which is very creative.

In Tango Nuevo we get the Latin dancers taking over doing a tango. Then the riverdancers start doing Tango, with some riverdance stamping being thrown in the middle of the tango. So they would tango, do a few riverdance "stamping moves" then back to the tango. Once again a very creative fusion of two very different dance styles.

In Cuba Cuba our vocalist comes back and starts singing a type of salsa melody, but she's got a Celtic whistle backing her up. How's that for fusion, a salsa melody backed up by a Celtic whistle! At this point everyone is on stage doing their own cultural dance, but blending seamlessly with each other.

In Drum Dance it feels like we are at Carnival (Brazil) some people have steel drums and two massive drums are brought out into the center (the ones that you elevate and hit from the side). It's just a big street party and everyone is having a good time. One of the more funny moments was near the end when the song was over but the flamenco dancer kept playing her triangle (yes, she's a dancer, but she got a hold of a triangle, more fusion) and one of the street dancers couldn't get her to stop so he butts her, nearly knocking her over. She turns around like a woman possessed, starts screaming in Spanish and runs after him using the triangle stick like a spear. Everyone was laughing.

Scene 16: The Night I Danced With You - This a soft gentle love song sung by the lead vocalist. I believe they use this to give the dancers a break after the huge dance medley they just finished. It is also helpful in bringing down the energy level of the audience, because we were all pretty "high" after the Latin medley. It's a very nice song and very enjoyable.

Scene 17: Passion and Pride - This is the closing number and everyone takes part. It's a great way to end the show.

There is no doubt that was a great show. There is so much going on it's almost impossible to take it all in, in one sitting. Unlike Riverdance or Celtic Woman or Celtic Nights, which focus on one culture, Heartbeat of Home focuses on three, if not more. By focusing on multiple cultures and fusing them together to create something new, the energy level is always high. There is always something new going on and always something to surprise you. Despite the detail of my review, I'm sure there is a lot I missed.

Fusing these cultures must have been difficult and I think the creators definitely deserve praise for doing it so well. For those looking for something strictly Celtic, this show has more than that, but there are definitely enough Celtic elements to keep you satisfied. I think Toronto was a good place for the North American premiere considering all the different cultures involved. I will definitely have to make some time to see this show again and urge others to watch it as well. It's a great production.
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« Reply #1 on: February 09, 2014, 07:09:08 PM »

  Wow Neil!  Great review!  Just seeing the length of the review and wealth of detail from you tells me that this is an extraordinary show!  We all need to watch for it when it comes to our areas!

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« Reply #2 on: February 11, 2014, 11:42:59 AM »

Sounds very cool!! Great review and it looks to be well worth seeing. One would expect a quality show from the Riverdance folks and it seems they made one. Congrats on a nice night out.

An fidléir's mínealaíne i sprite iomlán sin
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« Reply #3 on: March 13, 2014, 07:18:44 PM »


I saw this on WETA last week a new take from the Riverdance folks cool that they are touring already

L.A. Girl
Celtic Fiddler
Posts: 134

« Reply #4 on: March 29, 2014, 11:47:47 PM »

It's been twenty years since Riverdance performed during the interval at the Eurovision Song Contest. The rest is history. I only wish that Heartbeat of Home was coming to L.A. Just think, they could dance to the beat of earthquakes! LOL

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