Don't like Irish dance? See 'Heartbeat' anyway
By Kelly Burch
“Heartbeat of Home,” the new show from the producers of Riverdance, combines Irish dance with Latin American salsa and Afro-Cuban rhythms.
I know what your thinking: When I first saw the press release for the show being performed at the Wang Theatre I was skeptical, too. However, from the first number to the last, “Heartbeat of Home” seamlessly integrates these three styles into a high-energy show that will have you clapping, swaying and tapping along.
The show opens with the thunderous number “Heartbeat,” and from that first piece, audience members know that they are in for a treat. Some numbers — including “Emigrant’s Lament” and “Dreamdance” — are slower, but no less poignant.
The show incorporates high-definition projection, which gives the audience the feel of being in a 3D theater. Rather than being distracting, the projection adds the depth of the show’s presence and helps the audience become even more immersed in the world unfolding on stage.
The entire cast is phenomenal, but it is impossible to look away from lead dancers Ciara Sexton and Bobby Hodges. I found myself getting excited every time they came onto the stage. Sexton flitted around the stage like a fairy — complete with a pixie haircut. With a petite frame, she jumped higher than the other dancers and bounded around the stage with enough energy and a big enough smile to make it look effortless.
Hodges will have you wondering how anyone can move their feet so quickly and precisely. Only flamenco dancer Stefano Domit could give him a run for his money.
The dancers aren’t the only stars of the show, which prominently features a 10-piece band onstage. One of the most fun numbers in the show features percussionist Steve Holloway coming down from the bandstand and playing the bodhrán, an Irish drum, at center stage. He echoes the male dancers’ footwork and challenges them to produce new beats before playfully drumming out another beat just for Clare Craze, the Latin dance captain on “Heartbeat of Home.”
Another musical gem is vocalist Lucia Evans. Whether she is rapping the Cuban-inspired “Fiesta Mundo” or lamenting love in “The Night I Danced with You,” Evans can capture and hold the Wang Theater, ensuring that you will not miss the dancers during the time that she is on stage alone. That said, Evans whips out a few dance moves of her own, keeping step in salsa and afro-Cuban dance alike.
By the time “Heartbeat of Home” ends with “Reel Reprise,” you will be wondering how the two hours passed so quickly. The last number — like the first — is loud and energetic, sending the audience home with the best of “Heartbeat” fresh in their minds.
After the dancers made their exit on opening night, the band came to center stage, playing a high-octane send-off that anyone could enjoy, no matter where they call home.