We chat with six-times national Irish dancing champion and world medallist, Brent Pace, to find out why folk are flocking to the Irish music and dance sensation that is ‘A Taste of Ireland.’ Having just added another Hobart show due to demand, we sure won’t miss lead dancer and producer Brent taking to the Theatre Royal stage and other Tassie venues with his cast, April 19-22.
As a three-year old born to one of Australia’s most highly regarded Irish dancing teachers, Brent stared into the petite family television. It was around midnight and Michael Flatley was flying across the Dublin stage at Eurovision. It would be the moment Irish dancing hit the mainstream. International companies like Riverdance and Lord of the Dance would follow, tapping their way into hearts across the globe and inspiring a new wave of dancers.
“It was my earliest memory,” smiles Brent. “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. In my early years I wasn’t keen to go to dancing lessons with Mum. My friends were all having barbecues and playing Aus Kick on a Saturday, so dressing up in a kilt wasn’t so fashionable back in the 90s in suburban Australia. It was all about heavy ‘skirts’ and brown velvet. I just wanted to play football.
These days Brent heads up a company that came on the scene in 2012 and is now ranked three in popularity on Instagram behind Riverdance and Lord of the Dance. Indeed, many of his cast also tour with these two companies as well as performing with A Taste of Ireland from New Zealand to Europe to downtown New York City.
Brent has more than two decades of Irish dancing to his name, training alongside the finest in London, Dublin, America and Australia. He was the youngest lead dancer in the show The Rhythms of Ireland and has gone on to tour stadiums and theatres worldwide as well as feature in ABC’s Dancing Down Under documentary.
These days, his focus is entirely on A Taste of Ireland – a contemporary Celtic performance that dances its way through the historic tale of Ireland. Having entertained thousands the show will bring all new sets, tunes and costumes to Tassie, hot off their New York City performances. Shows are Tasmania-wide including Devonport, Burnie, Launceston and Hobart (show times and ticket link below). Prepare for what they describe as “live, energetic blend of jaw-dropping acapella tap battles, world-class dancing, melodic folk music mash-ups and craic galore transports you through the story of Ireland’s tumultuous history.”
“Our show brings Irish dancing into the modern era. While many imagine a man in a big shirt and a line of dancers, A Taste of Ireland is so much more. We do have our traditional dances, but much like saying all ballets are the Nut Cracker, Irish dancing is an art form with so many variations. We give what the audience might anticipate, weaved in with loads of contemporary movement as well,” Brent explains.
“When I watched Michael Flatley performing in trousers rather than a kilt, this changed everything in my young boy’s mind. Irish dancing went from rehearsing in a scout hall with an outside toilet and really heavy beige kilts to glitzy, exciting show business. It literally felt like it changed overnight from backyard folk dancing to mainstream entertainment. I was hooked!” says Brent. “Now there are Tik Tok Irish dances with millions of views, sell-out shows in big theatres and collaborations with global companies for marketing.”
A Taste of Ireland brings a cast of 15 to Tasmania; dancers hailing from the US, Ireland, New Zealand, the UK and Australia. With up to three tours on the go at any one time, it’s important to the company that dancers are culturally diverse and offer work opportunities as well as a launching pad particularly for Australian dancers and artists.
“I love performing at the Theatre Royal because its three tiers provide such an intimate feel. The audience is so close and by design the acoustics and sound are incredible. People can see our facial expressions and literally become part of the show – I can connect with faces in the dress circle, stalls and gallery. It’s raw and live and so special to perform in this way,” describes Brent.
“Big theatres might feel grandiose and amazing, but I do love the closeness of the Tasmanian venues we’ve selected. “I do a solo in the middle of the show where the microphone is attached to my shoe - if I miss a beat, I miss a beat. Everything is live and I tend to change it depending on how the audience responds. I’ll often extend it if everyone is feeling this acapella solo – just me and my shoes and the floor.”
The show follows a format that journeys through the Irish motherland’s tale. The first part is a darker narrative, with early twentieth century days highlighting everything from stone age beginnings and nomadic warrior tribes to mythology and the potato famine. Video screens and audio capture real moments in history as the second part leads right through to current-day Ireland.
Join us as we meet Ireland and these fine dancers on stages across Tasmania.
For more information and tickets visit: A Taste of Ireland
Devonport: April 19, 7.30pm- 9.20pm Paranaple Arts Centre
Burnie: April 20, 7.30pm- 9.20pm at the Burnie Arts & Function Centre
Launceston: April 21, 7.30pm- 9.20pm at the Princess Theatre
Hobart: April 22, 2pm- 3.50 & 7.30pm- 9.20pm at the Theatre Royal
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Words: Alice Hansen
Images: provided by A Taste of Ireland
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