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By Patricia Boccadoro

PARIS, 2 JUNE 2013 — The moment one walked into the Theatre des Abbesses in Montmartre which is amongst the prettiest in Paris, there was an air of good-humoured expectancy. Settling into one’s seat and listening to a lighthearted thrumming from behind the curtain on the dimly lit stage, people already had smiles on their faces and everyone broke out into spontaneous applause as the curtain rose. Against a most attractive décor of emerald green conceived by Sabine Dargent, the dancers and musicians with their instruments were sitting on an attractively floodlit low, semi-circular wall. There were a few chairs to sit on, a double bass, a grand piano, and an old-fashioned flowered standard lamp atop a harpsichord whereas an Irish harp took centre stage. The girls, dressed in simple frocks in shades of green and wearing lace-up shoes with ankle socks were offset by the men in suits complete with waistcoats, shirts and ties.

Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre: Rian
Choreography: Michael Keegan-Dolan
Photo: Ros Kavanagh

Rian, meaning mark or impression in Gaelic, which was premiered in Dublin two years ago and named after the Celtic title of composer/singer Liam O’Maonlai’s 2005 album is a plot-less work, a joyful celebration of traditional Irish tunes with contemporary dance. Everyone in this entertaining piece where the musicians dance and the dancers play percussion and even the audience sings, (in Gaelic!), enjoys themselves. Yet while all the musicians, beginning with the amiable O Maonlai himself, are Irish, the dancers, who comprise the Dublin-based Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre, are a happy mixture of nationalities.

Emmanuel Obeya, a dancer who has been with the company since 2003, and trained at the Rambert school and at the Dance Theatre of Harlem in New York, was born in Nigeria, and while Keir Patrick is English, the others come from Finland, Greece, Estonia and Denmark. Louise Tanoto owes her long dark hair and expressive eyes to her Indonesian heritage. Each member of the company has something special, something different to express. But despite or maybe because of these differences, the complicity and enthusiasm of the troupe adds up to a harmonious whole.

Louise Tanoto in Rian
Choreography: Michael Keegan-Dolan
Photo: Ros Kavanagh

The work began with three unlikely looking suited gentlemen beginning to dance before being joined by first one and then a second woman, until the stage was filled with maybe a dozen or so swirling, whirling, stomping figures, dancers and musicians confounded. Ties, jackets, waistcoats and shiny leather shoes were gradually discarded. It was fun, it was fresh and those on stage were enjoying it all as much as those watching. There were duos for two men, trios for two men and a girl, four girls would be dancing, prancing, jumping, before making way for a fourth and then a fifth performer, before one alone would take centre stage. Two dancers with big smiles on their faces were playing percussion to a series of intoxicating, dynamic pas de deux, where couples, stepping lightly, kicking nimbly, never touched, yet never lost eye contact.

And all the while, backstage, centre stage, the husky haunting and melodious voice of O Maonlai singing in Gaelic, dictated events, inspiring dance by his music. It was an irresistible evening of song, dance and music, where the joy of the performers was contagious. And how the audience loved it! The whole theatre was on its feet, singing along in Gaelic with O Maonlai, giving away the fact that a very large number in the audience were Irish. This was Ireland brought to Paris, and the welcome this warm-hearted troupe were given was overwhelming.

Based in Paris,  Patricia Boccadoro is the dance editor for Culturekiosque. She last wrote on the choreography of Mathilde Monnier

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