As someone with no dance ability whatsoever, I’m always in awe of those who are able to put one foot in front of the other and make it look half decent. And when I get the chance to see something like Spirit of the Dance, it pretty much leaves me speechless.

Spirit of the Dance, the brainchild of producer David King, is based on the better-known Riverdance, but with some differences. The basic principle is the same – it’s Irish dancing – but Spirit of the Dance adds other styles too, so we get to enjoy a bit of flamenco, ballet, salsa and tap, among others. This particular show at the Orchard Theatre also features the Three Irish Tenors, who pop up on stage from time to time to perform a few crowd pleasing favourites, while the dancers, presumably, get their breath back.

The show doesn’t follow any obvious narrative; instead the cast of eighteen take us on a world tour through dance, with the help of some lightning-fast costume changes. Men in kilts, belly dancers, cowboys… all of them with their feet moving so fast they’re basically a blur, and all you can really do is gape in astonishment. The highly synchronised style of the dance is risky, because any mistakes are glaringly obvious – but while there were a couple of small mishaps, the dancers were, for the most part, foot perfect. They’re also full of energy throughout and I have no idea how they do it; to be honest, I felt a bit exhausted just watching them.

Special guests the Three Irish Tenors provide a change of pace at various points during the evening, performing the likes of Unchained Melody, You Raise Me Up and a selection by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons – but they always feel strangely detached, almost like they’re a completely separate show. I’d assumed that at some point, they’d appear on stage along with the dancers, but in reality this doesn’t happen until the curtain call. Having said that, they’re entertaining and just cheesy enough to be good fun – they even got me singing along at one point, which is not something I’ll do for just anyone.

Spirit of the Dance is an evening full of colour, music and so many different dance styles that there’s bound to be something for everyone. It’s not Riverdance – but then it never pretends to be, and what it might lack in polish it more than makes up for in energy and entertainment. And I’m still in awe of the incredible dancers, who give a great performance and somehow manage to look amazing while they’re doing it. It’s almost enough to make me want to learn to dance. Almost…

Review by Liz Dyer –