By Yap Sui Lin
It is raining torrentially. We – my eagerly-awaiting-Irish-dancing-of-any-kind aunt, my game-for-everything mom and I – are caught in the typical bumper-to-bumper scenario. Can we make it? It seems bleak. Perhaps our burning desire to see ‘Dance of Desire’ at Genting moved the weather gods to stop the rain at last. As the grey clouds clear, we approach the Genting Skyway – a subtle hint of a wonderful evening.
After nibbling fine finger-food during the pre-concert cocktail – only available for invited guests, ahem – we are whisked off to the Genting Highlands International Showroom, where a story of power and glory, magic and mystery, love and hatred, and of course, desire awaits us!
Set in the lands of Erin, King Lir, upon becoming a widower, weds his wife’s sister, Aoife. Madly jealous of Lir’s love for his children, Aoife transforms the brats into swans and steals his Sword of Light, the embodiment of Lir’s power. Meanwhile, Milesians invade Lir’s kingdom. Amidst this, chemistry occurs between Anu, the Milesian princess, and one of Aoife’s servants. In short, it is a musical based on the Celtic legends with a Swanlake beginning and a Beauty and the Beast ending.
Sporting a 28-member international troupe, Dance of Desire showcases an eclectic fusion of traditional and contemporary Irish step dancing with every kind of boogie from outside the Emerald Isle. Its cornucopia of influences ranges from ballet, Latin American tango, Hungarian folk dance and jazz to ballroom dancing, Bollywood head-shaking and belly dancing. One can even catch some MTV moves, a speck of Aaron Kwok’s ‘Para Para Sakura’, a tinge of Fame as well as a trace of Saturday Night Fever! As its director, producer and composer, Eric Cunningham aptly distinguishes his one-year-old baby from its predecessor, Riverdance – it is truly ‘moving with time’.
The dancers are so lithe with vigor and so contagious that our legs spontaneously tap with the beat. Practically swept away by their high-octane kicks and tapping, I cannot help but try out the move during intermission. Well, it is not as simple as it appears. But at least I succeed in amusing everyone in the vicinity.
The instrumental interludes are refreshing. The lighting and original music transform the minimalist backdrop (two drapes and half-built pillars adorned with carvings) into a kaleidoscope of colours and establish each scene’s mood fittingly. Costumes-wise, visualise a king in purple with frills and black leotards opposite a Catwoman in her signature black shimmering outfit. On the other hand, Romeo is durian-headed and Juliet a Diana Krall look-alike.
You can see the intensity of desire in Ur’s fatherly love, Aoife’s yearning for Lir’s undivided love, and the couple’s love for each other. The stronger their raging desire, the more dynamically they dance. A case-in-point would be Zoltan, or the cili padi, as my aunt and mom affectionately call him. Caught between his subservience to his mistress and his deep love for Anu, he provides most of the show’s high drama and easily sweeps all three of us off our seat too …
It is a pity we are strategically positioned in front of the speakers – so sometimes the feet tapping are drowned by the loud music. When we cannot make out a distinct difference in volume whether the dancers were near or far from the floor microphones, we wonder whether the tapping was taped beforehand. We soon find out after the show that the dancers had tiny microphones attached to their shoes whilst a quarter of the music was pre recorded.
Although the finale is a little abrupt (with the repetition of the opening scene}, all the same, everyone leaves with the classic fairytale ‘happily ever after’ feel-good factor. If the show is not satisfying enough, the post-concert supper lavish spread – still for invited guests only, double ahem – is bound to win anyone through his or her stomach. There is even Irish stew and Irish jelly! (But sorry, no Irish coffee.)
Later, whilst enjoying the billion-dollar-view of Genting and KL from our First World Hotel room and reminiscing the lovely evening, we come to this verdict: if you want Riverdance with a modern twist, ‘Dance of Desire’ would be your cup of coffee!
First Published: 06.05.2004 on Kakiseni